Automation – the so-called ‘third industrial revolution’ – is set to transform the restaurant industry. From automated payment systems through mobile apps, to self-service kiosks, to delivery drones and even robot bartenders, dining is undergoing a huge technological overhaul. This shift can personalise customers’ experiences, with artificial intelligence being used to tailor menus to particular consumers. By aggregating data on a customer’s preferences and previous purchases, AI can recommend goods and services to them that meet their specific interests – saving a customer’s time and energy. Natural language processing could even enable such AI to communicate dynamically with customers just as human servers do. The incorporation of such AI into restaurant service eliminates the risk of human error in the traditional model – even seasoned waiters can make mistakes under pressure. Yet technology is not infallible: the restaurants likely to thrive in 2019 will be those which can still function in the ‘old-school’ way should such systems crash. Success is likely to come from the fluid combination of AI and automation with the traditional, human-driven model: customers are likely to be attracted to this pairing, moreover, seeing it as superior in authenticity to a purely tech-run restaurant.

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