In a bid to streamline operations and cut labor costs, major U.S. restaurant chains, including Starbucks, Domino’s, and Chipotle, are increasingly investing in automation technologies. These initiatives aim to enhance production efficiency, reduce wait times, and potentially increase profit margins, Reuters news report said.
Starbucks Leads with the Siren System: Starbucks plans to introduce the Siren System, a coffee-making machine, in approximately 10 percent of its stores starting next year. The machine is expected to significantly speed up the coffee-making process, allowing baristas to prepare drinks faster with fewer steps. The company’s Chief Financial Officer, Rachel Ruggeri, envisions a more stable production environment, leading to margin expansion in the long run.
Automation and Tech Adoption on the Rise: According to a report by the National Restaurant Association in February, approximately 58 percent of restaurant operators anticipate an increase in the use of automation and technology to address labor shortages this year. The demand for automation is driven by consumers’ expectations for quicker service and streamlined experiences.
Consumers Embrace Automation: A survey conducted by HungerRush in May revealed that 36 percent of 1,000 U.S. respondents believe major restaurant chains face staff shortages, leading to longer wait times and slower service. As customers become more accustomed to streamlined ordering processes, the adoption of automation is expected to become commonplace.
Chipotle and Domino’s Implementing Robotics: Chipotle is making significant strides in automation with the introduction of a robotic prototype that cuts and peels avocados, reducing preparation time by 50 percent. The company also rolled out a dual-sided grill that cooks 70 percent faster than traditional methods at select high-volume locations.
Similarly, Domino’s has been proactive in its automation efforts, releasing a pizza delivery robot car at specific stores in Houston in 2021. The company also partnered with Picnic Works, a Seattle-based food-automation startup, to launch an automated pizza prep device. Additionally, Domino’s established an automated supply chain center in Indiana, using machines to make batches of dough for its stores in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Job Creation Amidst Automation: Experts, including Gaurav Kachhawa, Chief Product Officer at Gupshup, a conversational messaging platform, believe that automation will not lead to a net reduction in jobs. Instead, the automation wave is expected to expand the overall economy and increase efficiency, creating new types of jobs in the process.
Restaurant executives remain optimistic about the potential benefits of automation, such as improved consumer engagement and increased sales. As the restaurant industry continues to evolve with technology, the push towards automation is likely to remain a prominent trend for years to come.