Dining on the Edge: Using Edge Computing Technology to Address Restaurant Challenges

edge computing applications in restaurants

It’s been a challenging couple of years for restaurants – and the hospitality industry in general. First came the pandemic, forcing shutdowns and swift changes in running a business. But as patrons have become more comfortable with returning to restaurants, owners are having a hard time recruiting and keeping staff. Many are turning to technology such as edge computing to address labor shortages and operational challenges.

The “Great Resignation” shows no sign of slowing down. In November, a record 4.5 million Americans left their jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The hospitality industry has been hit especially hard, with employees leaving their jobs at more than twice the national average. Other countries throughout the world are experiencing similar trends. Since 2020, the UK has seen one in five restaurant workers leaving the hospitality sector while a recent report from Germany noted only 5,400 applicants applied for 17,000 open hospitality trainee positions in 2021. Down under in Australia, restaurant owners have had to resort to poaching with offers of higher pay to get enough staff to operate their businesses.

The labor shortage creates a serious challenge for restaurants and food services. Recruiting has become more difficult, and employers have to pay more to attract and retain workers. And as labor costs rise, so do other overhead and inventory expenses, further creating challenges for restaurant owners.

To address all these challenges, restaurants need to find ways to innovate. Internet of Things (IoT) solutions supported by edge computing networks provide some attractive options for restaurants to automate routine tasks. By automating tasks, restaurants, eateries, and commercial kitchens can free staff from time-consuming activities so they can focus on work with a more direct impact on the customer experience.

Automating restaurant operations with IoT solutions

IoT solutions for food services address various operational aspects, from monitoring temperatures in refrigerators to tracking inventory to setting HVAC systems at ideal temperatures for efficiency.

When they sit at a restaurant table or pick up an order from a quick-serve eatery, most patrons take for granted that the food is safe to eat. For that to happen, it takes some behind-the-scenes effort. For instance, keeping temperatures at the correct levels in refrigeration units prevents food spoilage. Managers or employees have to do periodic checks to ensure temperatures are where they need to be.

However, most refrigeration units can be monitored remotely to ensure optimal temperatures with an IoT solution. This eliminates the need for on-site staff to perform periodic checks, which are time-consuming and take them away from their primary tasks. Automation also minimizes errors and triggers alerts for remediation to malfunctions.

Other areas where setting monitoring temperatures can make a difference involve kitchen equipment such as fryers and drink fountains and heating and air conditioning. In all these cases, the automation of temperature settings eliminates human intervention, reduces error, and saves money.

IoT solutions also help restaurants keep better track of inventories by using analytics to determine with precision when items need to be replenished. This approach helps take the guesswork out of inventory management and ensure freshness in the food served by an establishment.

The secret ingredient ― edge computing

As in many other industries, edge computing solutions can play a fundamental role in modernizing operations and addressing labor shortages in food service. Edge networks are essential to the functioning of IoT environments where data are being collected, transmitted, and analyzed constantly.

Data about conditions such as food and air temperatures have to be monitored in real-time or near real-time to optimize operations. That’s why, increasingly, restaurants will have small edge computing sites that will provide the necessary processing, storage, and analytics locally – without the latency that might otherwise happen if the data travel off-site.

How long the “Great Resignation” lasts is anybody’s guess. It could be a while before the labor market normalizes. In the meantime, with strategic investments in IoT and edge technology, restaurants, and food services have an opportunity to leverage IoT and the edge to drive operational efficiencies and enhance the customer experience.

Spark your appetite to learn more?

Check out what IoT technology enabled by edge computing can do to help improve operations, mitigate labor challenges, and reduce costs in your business. You can take a look at a high level overview of edge computing or download this free white paper, “Drivers and Benefits of Edge Computing” for a more in-depth analysis.

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