Here’s What 2019 Has In Store For Restaurant Operators

We can anticipate some interesting food and beverage story lines to emerge from the restaurant industry in 2019 (meatless meat!), but the bigger narratives will transpire off the menu as operators navigate saturation, competition and a dizzying pace of technology and convenience demands. Here are a few tip-of-the-iceberg predictions for the coming year.

The industry will continue barreling toward automation – in delivery, in ordering and in the kitchen. Food delivery is essentially on two parallel paths right now. There are companies trying to figure out how to integrate the channel into their systems, and there are companies trying to figure out how to automate the delivery process and make it more efficient. For the latter, credit the likes of Zume’s oven-on-wheels concept, Pizza Hut’s Mobile Pizza Factory prototype, Domino’s driverless test with Ford, Pieology’s drone delivery and Postmates’ autonomous robot Serve.

On the ordering front, major chains – namely McDonald’s and Taco Bell – are aggressively accelerating their kiosk roll outs, normalizing the habit of ordering from a touchscreen versus a front-of-the-house employee. There’s incentive for them to do so; McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook told CNBC that customers dwell longer and select more items when ordering from the kiosk. Voice ordering is also on the horizon, with forecasts indicating that more than 50% of searches will be voice-based by 2020.

In the kitchen, Walmart’s test of robot assistant Flippy – who has “worked” for Caliburger since March – could have major implications if it goes well considering the company’s footprint and influence. On paper, Flippy is a dream for high-volume stores, grilling up to 150 hamburgers an hour.

Aside from automation, the so-called stay-at-home economy will continue to disrupt restaurant operations with off-premise channels – delivery, catering and pick-up – expected to surpass $300 billion by 2023 (more than one-third of restaurant industry sales).



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