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92% of Restaurateurs Want to Increase Tech Investment
Cartken heads to VA, Kodiak Robotics teams up with Tyson, Starbucks reads palms
It’s been another banner week for the restaurant industry, as chains look to up their technology spending, while still adding more employees to the labor force. Meanwhile, Cartken went live in Virginia, Starbucks trialed palm payments, Orderbyte launched its new platform, Kodiak Robotics teamed up with Tyson, and Caracas’ dining boom looks to be fading away. Read on for more details.
92% of Restaurant Operators Increasing Technology Investments
According to a new study by Nation's Restaurant News, 9 out of 10 restaurant operators are “likely” or “definitely” going to increase their investments in technology in the coming year. The survey found that restaurants are focusing on enhancing tools for employee productivity, operational efficiency, and customer experience. The increased investment in technology is driven by the need to adapt to changing consumer preferences and to streamline operations. Despite the intentions, some restaurateurs remained deterred by tight budgets, while others are worried about how to best make use of all the data being collected.
Technomic: Chain Sales Surging
In 2022, the 500 largest US restaurant chains experienced an 8.2% increase in sales, reaching $392.8 billion, according to the 2023 Technomic Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report. This growth rate is almost double the 4.4% average rate seen in the eight years prior to the pandemic. The number of locations in the Top 500 grew by 1.7% to 230,005, adding a net of 3,770 new locations, with Starbucks alone opening over 400. Sales generated by the top 500 chains now account for 59% of the total restaurant industry sales, up from 53% in 2019. Chicken chains, particularly Chick-fil-A, Raising Cane's, and Wingstop, performed well in 2022, with sales increases of 13%, 31%, and 17% respectively. However, pizza chains' sales growth remained under 2.3%, and Sonic Drive-Ins experienced a 5.8% decline in sales. Limited-service chains generated 78.6% of the Top 500 sales, while full-service chains saw a continued improvement, reaching $84 billion in sales.
Restaurant Employment Nearly Fully Recovered
Restaurant automation and human labor can peacefully coexist, as new data shows that restaurant and bar employment has almost completely recovered from pandemic-related job losses. The sector added around 50,000 jobs in March and 60,000 in February, making it about another 60,000 shy of a full recovery - likely to happen in the next month or so.
Kodiak Robotics Hauls for Tyson Foods and C.R. England
Tyson Foods and trucking carrier C.R. England have partnered with Kodiak Robotics to utilize self-driving trucks for transporting time-sensitive and refrigerated freight. Kodiak Robotics, an autonomous trucking technology company based out of Mountain View, will provide its self-driving technology to help streamline and improve the efficiency of freight transportation for its storied trucking and protein-producing partners. By adopting autonomous vehicle technology, these companies aim to enhance safety, reduce transportation costs, and address driver shortages while maintaining the quality and timely delivery of their products.
“One of the categories where C.R. England is a leader is in perishable foods, which require the safest, most reliable, on-time delivery possible. Kodiak’s proven performance and commitment to customer success makes it a great partner to help us introduce autonomous service into our operations,” said Chad England, CEO, C.R. England. “Working with Kodiak enables us to better understand how autonomous vehicles fit into our fleet of the future, while continuing to deliver high quality service and value to great customers like Tyson. By employing self-driving trucks, we can increase capacity and expedite deliveries without sacrificing customer service, as our valued drivers will take over to interface with customers and consignees at either end of the load. Our intent is to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for customers, whether they need their freight moved autonomously or not.”
Orderbyte Launches in US
Orderbyte, a platform designed to help local restaurants grow their sales and engagement, launched a new solution that automates and streamlines online ordering and digital marketing. The product aims to simplify the process of increasing online presence and attracting customers, without requiring extensive marketing or technical expertise. OrderByte assists restaurants in optimizing their online profiles, automating review requests, and assigning orders to the appropriate fleet. The founding team behind OrderByte has an extensive background in hospitality, with over 25 years of experience master franchising for brands like Chili’s, Johnny Rockets, and Cinnabon.
Starbucks Trialing Palm Payments in Seattle
While Amazon is often seen trialing new easy check-out technologies in the Seattle region, there most recent news involves another iconic company from the region. Starbucks is testing Amazon's palm payment system, Amazon One, according to The Spoon. Amazon One uses biometric technology to recognize the unique pattern of veins in a customer's palm, creating a seamless and secure payment experience. While the two retailing giants may hope to expand the trial to new markets, they’ll first need to get over reports that local customers are “kinda creeped out by it.”
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Uber Eats and Cartken Head to Virginia
Sidewalk delivery robot startup Cartken has expanded its collaboration with Uber Eats, bringing AI-powered deliveries to the mixed-use “Mosaic District” in Fairfax, Virginia. The companies had previously partnered in delivery-bot heavy Miami, but this region is no stranger to robots either: an autonomous shuttle serves an adjacent subway station, and Starship has tinkered with food delivery in nearby D.C. Participating restaurants include RASA, Colada Shop, District Dumplings, Our Mom Eugenia, Urbano, Junction Bistro & Bar, Pupatella; robotic delivery hours are 11 AM to 8 PM on weekdays. Check out the exact boundaries of the delivery service here.
Restaurant Boom Cools in Caracas
Venezuela's restaurant boom, once seen as a sign of economic recovery, has fizzled out, with many restaurants shutting down and others reducing prices and cutting staff. About 200 formal restaurants opened in the country's capital, Caracas, last year, catering mainly to the wealthy elite. The initial optimism and growth were driven by President Maduro's easing of economic controls and the adoption of the US dollar. However, the recovery has been uneven, with 53% of Venezuelans earning less than $100 a month, and the country's ongoing economic crisis and US sanctions continue to limit progress. Experts estimate that around 60% of the restaurants that opened amid the boom will close in the coming months.