2020 may have been restaurants’ great technological awakening, but it was also just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how tech will transform the industry. What seemed innovative just a couple of years ago, like mobile ordering, is now table stakes in the new, digital world.
So what’s next? As we look ahead to 2022, here are the four areas I’ll be watching most closely and my expectations for each.
I predicted last year that restaurant robots were ready to take a step forward in 2021, but even I was surprised by the progress they’ve made—not only in the kitchen but also on the roads and sidewalks and even in the air.
I expect even more development in ’22, particularly in the delivery space after a lot of capital infusion and the entry of big players like Uber Eats and DoorDash.
In the restaurants themselves, I’m eager to see how Sweetgreen starts to implement the technology from robotic restaurant Spyce, especially now that it has investors to satisfy. How it fares in that journey should provide a lot of lessons for the rest of the industry.
Ghost kitchens are already a well-established part of the restaurant ecosystem. A recent Deloitte survey found that more than 80% of consumers have no problem using one—which implies that 80% of consumers know what a ghost kitchen even is. That said, I don’t think ghost kitchens are close to their final form.
In 2021, we saw the emergence of a hybrid model that emphasizes takeout but also includes nods to the traditional restaurant format, with prominent storefronts and even dining rooms in some cases.
In 2022, I’m expecting ghost kitchens to start adding more automation in the kitchen and in the delivery process in a bid to boost efficiency. (Think a robot making fries for multiple brands at once.)
And I’ll be watching Inspire Brands and Chick-fil-A—two restaurant companies that are opening their own ghost kitchens—…….