Tech Dining Trends of Tomorrow

Food and technology are an increasingly popular pairing. See what’s new on the menu

When it comes to providing an unforgettable dining experience, there’s no substitute for attentive, personal service from a restaurant or event venue staff. 

But there’s plenty of help to be had from a growing slate of automated food-service tools that help streamline the process of meal preparation and delivery—tools also designed to discern customer preferences, improve safety and, in some cases, create buzz that gets people talking (and tasting). 

The concept is sizzling. Venture capital investment in food technology is at a record high. So it might be unsurprising that Beyond Meat’s stock soared more than 570 percent from its initial public offering price—a huge feat for the plant-based meat company.

Here are several tech trends poised to influence the dining industry:

Kiosks to make ordering easy.

Once an infrequent sight at fast-casual restaurants, touch-screen devices are now common at many chains and large events. Although it may remove a server or cashier from the equation, the technology is proven to increase an average check by 15 percent to 30 percent—and upsell higher-end food items. Kiosks can also boost business by reducing lines that studies show can deter impromptu walk-ins. 

At large-scale events with meeting menus to match, use kiosks to let attendees pick and choose their courses. As a bonus, have robot technology serve the food once it’s ready. Which leads us to our next point …

Robots to execute simple tasks. 

Cyborg sommeliers? Not quite. But there’s been major movement in food-focused robotics technology, enough so that Forbes dubbed it a top trend for 2019. Notable players include Flippy, a robot that tends grill at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles; the West Coast robotic coffee bar chain Café X; and Spyce, a Boston restaurant where robots mix and cook healthful meals in an induction wok.

And though robotic technology won’t take the place of your staff, it can streamline mealtime and free up time for your team to focus on individual tasks. Consider having robots serve cocktails while the rest of dining staff prepares for the main event. 

Artificial intelligence that anticipates needs.

Also known as AI, the tools have the power to mimic human behavior. Among the many capabilities: voice-activated delivery ordering via Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home; cameras to recognize guests’ favorite orders and make recommendations; and intuitive tools that help chefs plan menus based on weather conditions, nearby events and fluctuations in ingredient prices. 

Vending machines that go gourmet.

The bland consoles are getting a tech-savvy makeover—and poised to become a $15 billion business by 2025. Consider Farmer’s Fridge, a Chicago startup that aims to make eating salads “as easy as getting money from an ATM.” Or Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, whose vending machine dispenses trendy confections to airport travelers in Columbus, Ohio, the brand’s hometown. 

At events, try vending machines for breakout session snacks. If convenience is also a priority come mealtime, swap vending machines for a conveyor belt serving system, which will still give guests the freedom to choose their own dishes as they roll on by. 

Sensors for tracking food safety.

Sure, it’s not as swoon-worthy, but the application is crucial. Fully automated temperature monitoring that uses wireless devices to record and transmit data helps eliminate human error when checking to ensure refrigerators and freezers are cold. Digital sensors can transmit that data to venue managers on the floor, saving time and energy. It could give attendees peace of mind, too.