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Artificial Intelligence to rule food industry post-COVID

Thursday, April 30, 2020, 17:14 Hrs  [IST]
HBI Staff | Hyderabad

By Vikram Goel, Managing Director, RATIONAL International India Pvt. Ltd.

Whether we like it or not COVID-19 has established a 'new normal' in all spheres of our lives. While the world is grappling with the changed order, few countries have crossed the bridge and are slowly getting back to business. India, on the other hand, is anxiously waiting for the dust to set and life to begin all over again. How soon we are able to do so is a million-dollar question at this moment. However, what all are sure of - is the need to urgently find a new fit, evolve strategies and be ready for the post COVID scenario.

Back to business

The food industry too is slowly but steadily finding its lost ground. In the past few weeks, home delivery services have been restored and restaurants are seeing a gradual spike in numbers. With no-contact deliveries and online payments, consumers are fast gaining confidence in ordering food from restaurants. While consumers are also eagerly waiting to get back to eating out, the industry itself is trying to find ways to make the consumer experience more safe, hygienic and assuring. Post-COVID, a lot is sure to change in the way people plan their eating outs. Restaurants, on the other hand, have to re-invent themselves in the way they cook, serve and meet the high standards of hygiene. And the only answer is - shift towards automation and leveraging Artificial Intelligence for the benefits of all. Today more and more restaurants are using smart combi-ovens - which can do wonders in no time with little human intervention. The minimal use of human hand assures the food is safe, hygienic and perfect to taste as every aspect is pre-programmed.

Automation, the way forward

In this fast-changing scenario, the food industry should brace itself to more stringent rules for non-home cooked food preparations. One can easily foresee the introduction of strict guidelines by the government taking the benchmark of food safety and hygiene a notch higher. In many parts of the world traditional cooking equipment such as tandoor and gas stoves, which are both risky as well as unfavourable for the environment, have been banned in commercial spaces. We too can expect a greater emphasis on the use of unsupervised smart equipment which assures high standards of food safety and hygiene.

While new rules might soon be laid down to beat the virus at all levels, consumers themselves will be more discerning in times to come. They will pick restaurants which follow high standards of hygiene and where social distancing is practised in the best possible way. A recent study done by an Indian restaurant-tech-solution platform cited more and more people are moving towards digital ordering and payment, where they do not have to touch anything other than sanitized cutlery during their restaurant visits.

The professional kitchens are in for mega changes world over. Restaurants will have to upgrade themselves with new-age technology which depends a lot on Artificial Intelligence and complete automation. Smart combi-ovens are the ‘new normal’. These smart appliances can be programmed in such a way that they can cook the best meals with minimal intervention. They can make any chef’s craftsmanship come true with ease. From baking, steaming to giving the final finish with the right colour crust, aroma and texture; they can do it all. What’s more, most of the intelligent equipment come with automatic self-cleaning function and hence nothing is left to chance when it comes to matters of cleanliness and hygiene. Even the HACCP data can be retrieved from the units automatically which can become a mandatory requirement in future for commercial kitchens to maintain. 

AI leads the way

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are playing predominant roles in the world of food safety. From storing raw materials at the correct temperature/environment, cooking as per the chef’s orders to even self-cleaning of appliances at regular intervals, AI leads the way with perfection. Automation would also mean using lesser manpower in the kitchen which would even serve the golden rule of social distancing and in the long run, may save on precious man-hours. AI also goes a long way in enriching customer satisfaction. With a rich mine of data at their disposal, restaurants will be soon able to gauge customer preferences and whip up curated dishes to their personal liking. Serving tailor-made meals to diners without having to explain their choices each time will surely increase customer satisfaction. These smart equipment will master each dish to perfection offering the customers fresh, out of the oven scrumptious meals with each order.

 As of said, change is the only constant. Kitchens the world over are set to become more intelligent with smart appliances, Bot chefs, voice assistant, tailor-made menus and perfect dishes. Technology once again is set to lead the way and hand-hold the industry into a post-COVID era with new discoveries and learnings.   

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