Toward the second half of 2021, labor shortages became the number one gripe of restaurant operators. Among personnel benefits and recruiting changes, one of the tactics restaurants took was to invest in more autonomous technology that could do the jobs they weren’t able to hire for.
McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said in June that the company was testing autonomous drive-thru technology at 10 units in the Chicago area, which will be able to lighten the load of employees in the future, but isn’t quite ready for prime-time yet. Buffalo Wild Wings meanwhile announced in October that the company is testing out a partnership with Miso Robotics to “hire” a robot that can fry wings.
Alongside these more preliminary tests, several brands are also trying out autonomous delivery that could eventually eliminate or lessen the need for delivery drivers, like Domino’s’ Nuro bot which went for a test run this April in the Houston area.
Some technology could eliminate the need for human interaction entirely, like AI startup Wings, which will be launching a human-free smart AI food-making system, Nectar, in 2023.