CHICAGO – A majority (62%) of foodservice operators are currently understaffed, according to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Restaurant Industry Report, 2023.
Foodservice operators gathered in Chicago for the 2023 National Restaurant Association Show recently to see the latest in food & beverages and technologies for the restaurant industry. With labor shortages a key issue among restaurant owners, exhibitors focused on solutions designed to help operators with attracting and retaining workers. An abundance of time-saving, fully cooked foods, robots, and POS systems were on display in Chicago.
Fully Cooked Foods
Using fully cooked meats and vegetables in the kitchen not only reduces food preparation time and improves consistency but allows restaurant owners to hire workers with less experience.
Tyson Foods Inc. showcased its new Hillshire Farm Carved Pork Belly as an elevated and versatile ingredient that can work in many dishes. The product won the National Restaurant Association’s Food and Beverage (FABI) Award. Tyson Foods stated that the ready to serve product can work for multiple dayparts and cuisines such as tacos and a Thai-style red curry pizza that was served at the 2023 National Restaurant Association Show.
Grecian Delight | Kronos introduced a new Coconut Curry Chicken flavor to its ReadyCarved line of global proteins. Like the other ReadyCarved whole-muscle varieties including Chicken Shawarma and Pork Al Pastor, these fully cooked, pre-seasoned, and pre-sliced products allow restaurants to offer authentic ethnic flavors to diners without requiring preparation time. Roland Foods, LLC displayed time-saving products such as Roland Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, which are sliced and ready-to-use.
A robotic bartender that can chat with customers and mix cocktails was the highlight of the 2023 National Restaurant Association Show.
Cecilia.ai from GKI Group is the world’s first interactive robotic bartender according to the company. Cecilia is a 3D avatar powered by conversational AI (artificial intelligence) and voice recognition abilities that can make conversation while mixing about 120 cocktails and mocktails per hour (without engaging in conversations).
Using conversational AI, Cecilia can guide customers through the menu and tell jokes while making customized cocktails on demand.
Additionally, Atosa USA, Inc. showcased its Intelligent French Fry Robotic Solution that won the National Restaurant Association’s 2023 Kitchen Innovations Award. Robot servers that bring trays of food to diners’ tables can free up employees to interact with customers while reducing the physical burden of carrying heavy plates back-and-forth. Bear Robotics, Inc. highlighted its robots’ ability to provide greater efficiency and guest experiences. Its Servi+ hospitality robot offers increased capacity (16+ dishes or 4 standard bus tubs), and expanded 88-pound payload.
AUTEC also displayed a sushi-making robot; the ASM865A Maki Maker can produce up to 1300 rice sheets per hour for sushi rolls and burritos. Akiko Yamaguchi, marketing director for AUTEC, told The Food Institute that its sushi robots are especially popular in the college and university setting where student workers frequently turn over.
POS Systems on Display at the 2023 National Restaurant Association Show
POS (point-of-sale) systems are evolving into business operating systems according to Bryan Solar, chief product officer, at SpotOn.
While 80% of the market is still on legacy POS systems, restaurant operators are moving towards cloud-based POS systems as they learn how using technology can protect their profits through an understanding of costs, Solar told The Food Institute. More than 40% of foodservice operators are reportedly planning to invest in technology or equipment to increase productivity, the NRA said.
The new SpotOn Handheld device helps servers turn tables faster through quicker bill presentation and payment, while the SpotOn Reserve restaurant reservation system helps hosts seat guests faster by providing table information with flags that show statuses like drinks, main course, or check paid. In the back-of-the house, restaurants are using kitchen display systems – a large screen in the kitchen that displays ticket orders in real-time – to track, route, and prioritize orders to improve accuracy.
Virginia Lee is a food & beverages trendspotter and market research analyst. She has advised companies on innovation and market entry opportunities in consumer packaged goods at Euromonitor International, Innova Market Insights, and Brightfield Group. Connect with Virginia on Twitter and Instagram at @VirginiaALee.
The Food Institute Podcast
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