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Tech-enabled Smart Food Court: Dining in the Digital Age

Tuesday, March 1, 2022, 14:18 Hrs  [IST]

By Ligouri Godwin, Chief Technology Officer, Isthara Smart Food Courts

The restaurant industry has been experiencing a digital transformation, one that has been anticipated for years, and which is being accepted by the industry and patrons alike with open arms. Right from apps that give you access to thousands of restaurants and food options at a touch of a button, to technology that helps transform the workplace and the systems that depend on it. Restaurants, food courts and cloud kitchens all over the globe are beginning to realize that there is unlimited potential with the utilization of technology, more so with the way in which tech can actually streamline their processes, and refine operations. 

With technology, segments of this industry are able to provide customers with services which are customer-centric, more efficient, and faster than ever before. Smart food courts and restaurants are becoming the new normal, and customers are beginning to expect this tech integration, no matter where they go or what kind of cuisine they are looking to indulge in. Gone are the days when waiters would come to your table and wait for you to decide your order from a predetermined set of food items, reading off a paper sheet. With the dawn of tech trends within this industry, more operators are choosing to go paperless, and are starting to wholeheartedly welcome the concept of ‘smart hospitality’. The core tenants of ‘smart hospitality’ revolve around disrupting the processes that this industry had been dependent on for so many years. 

When it comes to food courts, in particular, the process of digitization has had to move one step further, to provide customers with an array of choices while giving them efficiency and utility at the same time. When visiting food courts, customers want to have access to an incredibly large pool of choices while still being able to sit down and enjoy their meal in the midst of a good environment. They also want to have an easy process when ordering their food and want to be able to receive this food at a fast pace, and without any hurdles. A tech-focused platform can offer curated food experiences, efficient customer service and enhanced quality control. Additionally, technology also enables customers to pre-book their meals to avoid waiting time which thereby improves customer service. Digital integrations such as digital menus, self-service kiosks and food discovery and ordering measures are also enabling the growth of this segment. Incorporating technology to better these services might have been a challenge for this industry, but it is one that will, in the long run, enable the industry to move easily into the futuristic landscape that is the evolving hospitality industry.

One of the biggest assets for food courts that are looking to incorporate tech into their operations is mobile apps. Smart food courts all over the world have begun to experience improvements and notable impacts as a result of branded mobile apps. In India, only a select few smart food court brands like Isthara Food Courts have begun utilizing app-based technology to offer better services to customers across food courts. Mobile apps provide food courts with the opportunity to provide their patrons with offers that can help boost customer retention and recall. Customers are more likely to dine at a smart food court after receiving reminders about new dishes, new restaurants and new experiences at these food courts. Apps that provide their customers with loyalty programs can also improve diner frequency, thereby bringing in more repeat customers. In addition, for the health conscious customers, these apps are also providing inputs on the food being offered, and are also providing completely supply chain transparency to know where their food is coming from. These platforms can also provide customers with new and diverse payment options, enabling them to go cashless and keep up with the changing purchasing trends in the economy.

In addition to enhancing the user end experience, value data technology can also help brands acquire valuable information regarding customer buying patterns and trends using big data and predictive technology. This can help them tailor their dining experience in accordance with customer preferences. This acts as a win-win situation for both the customer and the food court operators, since the restaurant can offer exactly what the customer prefers, and customers can be satiated knowing the food courts will always know, and have exactly what they are on the lookout for.

IoT forms the core of the technological developments being witnessed in the hospitality industry, and smart food courts that utilize IoT for their daily operations have witnessed an incredible surge in efficiency. Smart food courts are now using IoT to speed up the line of communication amongst their workforce and alert them in the event of any technical or maintenance related issue, enabling them to fix the problems faster and prevent disruption of the services provided. AI based chatbots and blockchain applications will also further strengthen the management processes, anticipate inventory and provide stronger transparency in the system. 

While technology can aid the customer-centric operations of a restaurant or food court, it is also being used to improve and tackle the operational challenges that food courts are often faced with. Restaurant outlets within food courts have begun relying on management technology to improve communication between customers and employees and to ensure that the food reaches the customers in a shorter period of time. Kitchen display systems are also seeing use across smart food courts to ensure accurate and efficient food processing time and delivery. The food court segment is set for a strong overhaul in the current year, and technology is set to play a key role in providing a much needed push and evolving the way people dine in this digital age.

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