Disrupting a market where tech advancements are inexpensive to develop and, in many cases, require little technical knowledge, can appear to be an unattainable goal. In the restaurant industry, these constants remain true with new tech breakthroughs pushing the industry forward at a pace that is unprecedented. However, the new technology does not limit the ability to disrupt an industry but on the contrary creates more opportunities.
Which brings us to the million-dollar question, where will the disruptors come from and how will they change the restaurant industry?
To best identify where the next disruptors will emerge in the restaurant space, we first must define a disruptive solution. To me disruptive technology solves a seemingly ubiquitous problem with the appearance of no readily available solution; for all my fellow restaurant professionals: think of high transaction fees with third-party restaurant aggregators or high employee turnover within brick-and-mortar establishments. These are problems that many people within the space have come to accept. That is until the next set of disruptive technology enters the hospitality industry.
With so much advancement in restaurant technology in recent years innovating up seems like a never-ending race to technology solutions only found on fictional shows like “The Jetsons.” Therefore, the next food technology disruptors will not come from vertical innovation but from lateral technology solutions. In addition, the introduction of COVID allowed for exponential growth for food tech solutions that brought food into consumers’ homes in a safe and cost-effective manner. Prior to COVID, concepts like Ghost Kitchens and Virtual Kitchens were amazing ideas and would hopefully gain traction by 2025 Now they are commonplace with virtual brands having more than 1,000 locations.
Tableside payments and establishments with no service staff are now being tested by global restaurant brands. Innovative fast-food chains like KFC and Taco Bell are working on drive-through restaurants with 3 drive-through lanes for takeout service. Vertical innovation is always the most exciting. Products like the ones mentioned, drone delivery, or driverless food delivery vehicles garner most of the press. However, they are expensive to produce and even more expensive for the average restaurant to adopt, making vertical innovations years, if not decades, away from being mainstream.
The problems that these tech advancements have created have opened up lanes for a whole new breed of disruptors to enter into the restaurant technology space and solve the new challenges these tech companies have created for operators. For example, running a virtual brand from a brick-and-mortar location is a great way to introduce new products to a whole new set of consumers. However, it creates a new set of challenges for the consumer. Contacting virtual brands for order issue, canceling, or altering an already placed order can prove difficult for the consumer and for restaurant employees. Imagine calling your favorite virtual pizza restaurant and the phone is answered by your go-to buffalo wing spot. Issues like these will soon be solved by virtual call centers and AI voice bots that can answer the phones for multiple brands at a very inexpensive cost to the restaurant.
Not to mention restaurant aggregators like Uber Eats or DoorDash who will charge more for brands to show higher on category searches. Disruptive tools that assist with how much and when to pay for the restaurant aggregator premium placement may become commonplace. A tool like this would save restaurants from paying for visibility when it is unlikely that their restaurant will be found.
We are only touching the tip of the iceberg with the innovation soon to enter the restaurant space. To be disruptive in a space experiencing unprecedented tech advancement, the innovation must work with the current tech solutions that have now become commonplace even at your local diner. Future disruption will come from developing laterally enhancing current tools. Companies looking to disrupt shouldn’t try and create a new DoorDash or Uber Eats. Instead, they should focus on creating the products that all their users will need today, and, in the future, won’t be able to imagine life without.
About Brian Duncan:
Brian Duncan is an experienced business development and sales leader with more than twelve years of leadership experience in strategy, director, and consultative selling roles. He specializes in SaaS sales for startups and Fortune 1000 companies, team building, sales strategy, C-level negotiations, and new business development. Brian can be found online at linkedin.com/in/brian-j-duncan/
HungerRush is driving the transition from the POS terminal of the past to the integrated POS system of the future. They call it the HungerRush 360 Restaurant Experience, making possible a 360-degree view of everything a restaurant needs to succeed, from the guests served to the operations and employees serving them. HungerRush can be found online at HungerRush.com
By Brian Duncan