You’ve no doubt heard of 5G connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT) — perhaps particularly in the context of geopolitics and personal security.
But these innovations also have profound implications of all kinds, and restaurant owners and managers will need to be aware of what is potentially a great commercial opportunity.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)
Desktop computers, laptops, cellphones and Smart TVs – we’re all now familiar with being connected to the internet through these kinds of devices.
But the IoT will take this connectivity to another level entirely.
Potentially, any electronic device or machine will now be able to use sensors to collect and analyze data, and communicate with each other online.
And the advent of 5G means that these communications will be extremely rapid.
What the IoT Means for Restaurants
But what does all this mean for restaurants?
It means that many routine, tedious, and time-consuming tasks can be automated; allowing owners, managers, and staff more time to focus on building their businesses and engaging with customers.
IoT data provides an artificial ambient intelligence, which allows devices to some extent to control their own environment and enables increased productivity, better food safety, and enhanced customer and staff experience.
What kind of Devices and How Does it Work?
Any useful IoT system requires four key elements
- Device-based sensors;
- A means of gathering the sensor data;
- A cloud-based data storage and interpretation platform; and
- A mobile app for managers and or staff to receive real-time useful information.
Smart Sensors and Data Monitoring
Sensors can be built into all kinds of restaurant equipment, including fridges, freezers, ovens, stovetops, and storage areas. And they can measure all manner of data points such as temperature, humidity, vibration, electrical currents, and motion.
So, as well as providing critical information about food safety, these sensors can also help monitor and control the efficiency of ovens, fridges and freezers, and the ambient temperatures in food storage and preparation areas.
In large, busy, premises, for example, where thousands of dollars worth of perishable foods may be held in store, smart thermostats can not only save precious resources by preventing wastage, they may also help avoid expensive equipment failures and potential loss of customer covers.
Smart Fridges and Ovens
Moreover, with today’s rapidly advancing IoT technologies, both fridges and ovens can become smart devices in their own right.
Every compartment of a fridge can be independently monitored for temperature and set to safely accommodate different foods. The sensors will alert management when use-by dates are being approached and can even detect certain common contaminants.
Likewise, today’s smart ovens now offer several independent choices and combinations of heat source. And the opportunity for remote control and monitoring will bring cost-savings as fewer staff are required in the kitchen.
Staff Management and Safety
The IoT now offers the opportunity to video monitor both kitchen and wait staff in real-time, and to ensure that all necessary safety protocols are being observed.
Cleaning schedules for kitchen, storage, and serving areas can also be monitored and real-time notifications ordered for any deviations.
Much of this may seem like science fiction for now. And until the widespread availability of 5G, the IoT may be limited in its practical uses.
But there’s no doubt that it’s coming. And the potential cost-savings and enhanced customer experience that it offers mean that no restaurant can afford to ignore its implications.