Dec 18, 2023

Will AI set the flavours in contract catering?

This article marks the beginning of our series to spotlight trends in contract catering, and what better way to kick it off than by diving into the topic that’s on everyone’s lips – Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Contract catering is a dynamic and heartwarming industry. It fuels employees and students to do their best work and nurtures people needing care. At Pej, we are committed to developing technology that enhances the contract catering journey for operators, clients, and guests.

Just like any other part of the Food and Beverage industry, contract catering experiences rapid changes and exciting innovations. That’s why we’re starting a series of articles to spotlight the trends and movements shaping this field.

AI’s potential role in contract catering

New technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are entering contract catering, offering benefits like an improved customer experience, automated tasks and great service. Let’s look into the tech-savvy future and learn how AI could help caterers create the menu – even set the flavours in the dishes!

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in F&B is undeniable, as it has changed various segments already, including quick service restaurants (QSRs). According to a Forrester survey, 69% of responding companies reduced operating costs through AI-powered chatbots and automation.

During the pandemic, digital ordering systems exploded, resulting in benefits like higher spending per order and better service. Automated technology efficiently manages repetitive tasks, resulting in a more personalised experience. As Forbes writes, QSRs (quick service restaurants) use AI to enhance the customer experience, manage procurement, and streamline supply chains. Large players like McDonald’s, Subway, and Domino already use AI in their operations.

6 ways in which AI and ML could change contract catering

1. Increased personalisation

AI can provide tailored recommendations by leveraging customer data. With AI, you can offer personalised food, beverage, and product suggestions, elevating customer satisfaction, fostering loyalty, and driving increased sales.

By analysing customer preferences, order histories, and other data, AI algorithms deliver tailored recommendations that create memorable dining experiences, encouraging guests to return for more.

2. Smarter predictions

AI and ML are powerful tools for making informed predictions based on data analysis. By examining integrated data, you can forecast customer behaviour, identify market trends, predict sales patterns, and even foresee equipment failures and issues. This proactive approach reduces downtime, trims maintenance expenses, saves costs, and enhances the overall customer experience.

3. Set both menu and flavours?

Want to create a menu with plant-based meat that tastes exactly like the real deal? Then, you’ll be happy to hear that the first AI-generated flavor does that. Firmenich used AI algorithms to analyse vast amounts of data to create unique and innovative flavour profiles. This opens new possibilities for culinary experimentation and creating unprecedented flavours and experiences.

Besides the actual flavours, AI can also help create menus. By letting AI analyse customer preferences and other parameters like vegetables in season, you can create menus that appeal to clients and are more profitable.

4. Automation and streamlining

AI-driven kitchen robots take charge of routine tasks, freeing up staff for higher-value activities, thus enhancing efficiency and reducing labour costs.

These AI-powered systems automate tasks like order processing and table reservations, allowing staff to concentrate on delivering exceptional customer service. This operational streamlining boosts efficiency, offering restaurants a seamless dining experience.

5. Strengthened customer service

By entrusting a virtual assistant with routine tasks such as handling reservations, answering queries, and providing recommendations, you enhance both customer experience and operational efficiency.

AI-driven insights can help you gain a deeper understanding of your customer data. Recognizing customer behaviour patterns makes it possible to refine successful offerings and eliminate ineffective incentives. This data-driven approach enables the deployment of tailored limited-time offers for loyal customers, further enhancing their overall experience.

6. Optimised operations

There are a ton of ways AI can improve caterers day-to-day-operation, here are some bets from Forbes, Forrester and others:

■ Enhanced food safety: AI sensors that continuously monitor temperature and humidity levels is a proactive approach that can prevent potential issues and ensure optimal storage conditions, safeguarding the quality and safety of products.

■ Combating fraud: Employ specialised AI algorithms to reduce the risk of theft and other fraudulent activities. By detecting irregular transactions, AI helps maintain the integrity of your operations and safeguards your financial resources.

■ Optimising inventory management: AI excels at forecasting inventory demands, allowing you to optimise pricing and stock levels. This minimises waste and reduces unnecessary expenses. AI ensures order accuracy and can provide alternative product recommendations when the desired items are unavailable.

■ Efficient staffing: Restaurants can leverage AI to analyse staffing and sales data, uncovering trends during peak times. This valuable insight aids in making informed decisions, ensuring you have the right staff at the right times.

■ Optimised supply chain: AI is a game-changer for supply chain management. It minimises waste, enhances efficiency, and reduces costs. AI uses data analysis to identify bottlenecks and streamline delivery times, contributing to sustainability efforts.