In our last restaurant technology blog, we discussed COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the growth and development of AI voice technology and how it was quickly modernizing the drive-thru operations as we know it (1). The very same technology has been working on cameras, too. AI tech now enables cameras to perform designated tasks, recognize faces, and alert managers when issues arise in operations (2). In 2021 and beyond, cameras will not be a simple surveillance tool. Rather, it will be what distinguishes restaurants from the old and the new.
Here we list 5 ways camera tech can improve your business in the new year and beyond.
We cannot discuss restaurant AI without first addressing the pandemic. COVID-19 has been a powerful driving force for AI tech particularly in this industry, as stay-at-home orders, social distancing and other safety measures forced operators to rethink how they interact with their staff and guests.
The upsurge and adoptions of other AI systems will increase as demand in touchless technology increases. Even with the vaccine, we expect the focus on safety and hygiene to remain. This is where AI powered cameras will come in handy. According to David Chen, co-founder and director of engineering at Orbbec 3D Technology International, Inc., a manufacturer of 3D cameras, 3D cameras can now be equipped with algorithms that count, track, and log not only the number of humans in a room, but their position and grouping (2). This would be helpful in situations where social distancing must be enforced.
Cameras can also be programmed with new algorithms that can monitor whether people are wearing masks and complying with public health guidance, with facial recognition now being developed so that it can even accurately identify faces even through the masks or face coverings (3, 4).
Cameras will also allow restaurants to serve customers in a touchless environment. Self-order kiosks using smart cameras is sure to become more prevalent as customers prefer a contactless order service. In modern Asian street food restaurant Wow Bao, for example, as well as the fast-growing high-end burger chain, BurgerFi, self-order kiosks with smart cameras have been in use even before the pandemic (5). For example, the cameras would recognize regular customers and make suggestions based on a customer’s previous order history. According to Christopher Sebes, President of Xenial, Inc., producer of such self-order kiosks, this means increased productivity and customer satisfaction (1). “Once you opt into facial recognition, you can reorder and pay for your favorite dish in less than 10 seconds,” he added.
3D cameras also equate to smarter, faster payments. Some research suggests that cameras can be “more accurate than fingerprints or any other form of biometric identification” (2). In this way, 3D cameras not only speed up payment, but also opens opportunities for restaurants to introduce instant loyalty programs. “It allows for faster repeats of past orders and removes the need for credit card swipes or taps,” said Chen, “3D cameras can actually follow hand gestures as customers “air point” to the items they want, as presented on a screen or menu board. The technology enables customers to order one, two or more of any item, adding to their total order as quickly as they can gesture” (2). And the best part? “learning curves are small to non-existent.”
When smart cameras were introduced to Domino’s Pizza back in 2019, it was for Domino’s to access whether their pizzas were coming out of their ovens in the right shape, with the right toppings, and cooked properly and ready to go (6). The camera even took pictures of the pizza and Domino’s sent them to customers to show that their pizza had been made properly.
In 2021, however, most camera AI will allow restaurant operators to use photos to show customers that their food had been handled properly by their staff. It will answer questions that customers want answered post-pandemic. For example, did the employee wash their hands? Did they clean the surfaces? Are they wearing gloves? Are they wearing a mask? According to Jenny Splitter of Forbes magazine, this is how restaurants can earn customer trust after the pandemic, since “the end customer, then, can feel a little more comfortable knowing the restaurant followed proper cleanliness procedures” (7).
Improve Management and Productivity
Manually keeping track of employee hours can take time and effort, but with facial recognition time clocks installed in AI cameras, checking-in and checking-out employees will offer operators an accurate system with virtually no human error, more security, and the ability to manage your team on the cloud (2).
The AI camera/surveillance system can also evaluate interactions between customers and employees, “track(ing) how quickly food arrives at tables, or how often servers check on diners. The system then offers managers suggestions on how to optimize restaurant operations, and alerts managers of “noteworthy events,” like when wait times run long, and can notify servers if a visitor’s water glass needs a refill” (8).
What this means for operators is that they can use information obtained from AI camera to operation costs and drive revenue by monitoring employees and diners to figure out corrections. They can also use this information to train and educate their staff. All in all, camera AI has the potential to “empower restaurant operators to reduce operation costs and drive revenue” (8).
And for those who may be concerned about privacy, “cameras can be positioned above the employee so that faces aren’t captured. Some of the company’s more recent customers even include kitchens at military bases who are required to keep those faces off camera” (6).
Off-premise dining will continue trending in 2021, with the food delivery market expected to expand (1). According to Dragontail Systems, a Camera AI company based in Melbourne, Australia, camera AI can help ensure order accuracy and improve efficiencies.
For example, their cameras can optimize the food prep process from order to delivery to save time and money (9). The companies’ camera cutting station can monitor food prep and cooking in kitchens, detecting order accuracy before it is picked up by delivery.
By optimizing the preparation, delivery and customer contact processes, operators can ensure higher kitchen productivity, lower delivery costs, faster turnaround and ultimately, happier customers (9).
The potential for camera tech to enhance all aspects of food ordering, restaurant operations and staff management is practically endless. 3D cameras will also enable stores to reopen safely, and aid in the recovery of the restaurant industry post-pandemic.
And as more businesses embrace AI, begin to change the customer experience and their expectations of what foodservice can be, we will surely see more restaurants adopt advanced camera technology.
For more information on how to utilize restaurant technology in your restaurant, contact us firstname.lastname@example.org.