In today’s competitive foodservice environment, quick service restaurants (QSRs) are only as good as the last meal they’ve served. But unfortunately, cold French fries, warm soda, and over- and under-cooked menu items are all too common. It only takes a few of these negative experiences to tarnish a brand’s reputation in consumers’ eyes.
Fast casual restaurants that offer fresher, healthier menus appeal to increasingly discriminating consumer preferences. While fast food restaurants may wish to tap into these changing trends, they struggle to introduce new menu items. And the reality is, there are enough options to make it all too easy for consumers to permanently avoid a particular establishment (or even franchise) altogether.
For nearly a decade, connected equipment technology has been embraced in food retail to optimize facility operations. In foodservice, the concept of connected, communicating kitchens and facility systems is relatively new. Many foodservice operators don’t even realize that the technology exists today to help protect their brand and gain a competitive advantage.
This technology is often referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT) because it combines machine to machine (M2M) connectivity with Internet and/or cloud services to store enterprise data and leverage that data for analytics. It often relies on a supervisory system controller as the “brain” that monitors and controls nearly every aspect of a facility’s operational infrastructure.
Thirty-five percent of total energy consumption in a QSR is directly attributed to food preparation, representing the largest factor contributing to overall energy usage in a restaurant. Restaurant chains can no longer afford to ignore the opportunity to improve energy efficiencies in food preparation.
Another promise of kitchen connectivity is the ability to broadcast new menu items across an enterprise of stores in real time. We refer to the equipment and personnel that make up the food assembly line as the “food factory.” Traditional food factories are currently not equipped to quickly respond to menu changes. In most QSRs, menu changes take place approximately every six months and are notoriously difficult to implement. A connected kitchen that can roll out changes across entire regions or districts in near real time — and do so with greater accuracy with feedback — has a much has a much higher probability for successful menu management.
To make this scenario a reality, foodservice equipment manufacturers are utilizing Emerson’s controls into their systems. Multi-purpose ovens, grills, fryers, holding stations and the like are all being designed with M2M and IoT connectivity in mind. The ultimate goal is to capture data points from nearly every piece of equipment in the restaurant — all in an effort to improve food quality and preserve brand reputations.
Finally, by compiling data on every piece of equipment in the food factory, the connected kitchen maximizes store uptime by preventing critical points of failure. And to ensure safety, it even provides hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) monitoring.
This blog is a summary of Paul Hepperla’s column in the latest edition of Emerson Climate Technologies’ E360 Outlook. Read the column in its entirety and download the digital edition.