November 16, 2023

A Taste of Innovation – Highlights from the 2023 National Restaurant Association show

Discover the cutting-edge technologies and game-changing solutions showcased at the 2023 National Restaurant Association Show.

The 2023 National Restaurant Association Show held at McCormick Place in Chicago was a four-day extravaganza that excited attendees. Our goal was to find companies paving the way for the future of dining through digital innovation solutions. And let me tell you, we were thrilled with what we discovered! We could feel the excitement and energy as soon as we stepped into the bustling show floor.

As the saying goes, "The only constant in life is change." This holds especially true in the fast-paced restaurant industry, where technological advancements reshape traditional business models and consumer expectations. The emphasis on innovation and early adoption can be seen in the highlighted trends from the 2023 National Restaurant Association Show.

The event showcased cutting-edge restaurant technology, revealing a world where AI, robots, seamless integrations, and data-driven insights revolutionize how we dine. This blog will take you through our top experiences and takeaways, exploring the groundbreaking technologies and game-changers reshaping the restaurant industry. Get ready to dive into a world of innovation where a taste of the future accompanies every bite.

Key Takeaways and Insights from Industry Thought Leaders

Experts and industry thought leaders took to the stage in engaging panel discussions and inspiring keynote presentations, emphasizing the significance of digital innovation in driving efficiency, enhancing guest experiences, and staying competitive in a rapidly evolving industry.

According to Michelle Korsmo, CEO of the National Restaurant Association, restaurant owners who are open to innovation and adopt new technologies early on can benefit the most. By using AI to gain insights into customer preferences, automating back-of-house operations, and optimizing their digital presence for off-premise customers, operators who embrace change and innovation will have a better chance of succeeding in the evolving restaurant industry.

Another significant trend discussed at the show was the digitization of back-of-house operations. President of Powerhouse Dynamics, Jay Fiske emphasized the importance of data generated by kitchen equipment and how it can improve operations, safety, and sustainability. Powerhouse Dynamics' Open Kitchen product allows operators to access this data and monitor equipment performance, usage, and safety.

Digital innovation takes the spotlight

The show floor was abuzz with cutting-edge digital solutions designed to streamline operations and enhance guest experiences. Attendees were captivated by interactive demos and immersive experiences showcasing these technologies' real impact. The possibilities seemed endless, from predictive AI revolutionizing back-of-house operations to seamless POS systems integrating mobile ordering.

One exhibitor that garnered significant attention was This Al-driven platform showcased its predictive analytics at a recent expo, wowing attendees with its incredible accuracy in optimizing inventory management and employee staffing.

Using historical sales and demand intelligence data, as well as machine learning, generates accurate sales and labor forecasts for each restaurant location. But that's not all - the platform also aggregates demand intelligence data from various sources, including weather, events, traffic, and holidays, adding hyperlocal data to the forecasting layer.

By gaining insights into customer preferences and behavior, restaurants can better understand their market and optimize their operations. This means better anticipating and meeting customer needs, improving the overall customer experience, and potentially increasing revenue.

Another standout was Mr. Yum, who wowed attendees with their seamless POS system that easily integrates with mobile ordering platforms, offering a more convenient and efficient experience for both customers and staff. Their digital menu, ordering, and payment system can be accessed by scanning a QR code at the dining table, and it includes visually appealing photos and detailed descriptions of each menu item to help customers make informed choices. Additionally, the platform supports multiple languages to cater to a diverse customer base. Mr. Yum can also seamlessly integrate with existing restaurant systems to ensure smooth operations.

In addition to and Mr. Yum, the show showcased Lightspeed, a platform that combines point-of-sale and payment systems. Their main product for the hospitality industry, Lightspeed Restaurant, has an Advanced Insights feature that gives restaurant owners valuable information and insights. The feature has a "magic quadrant" that informs them about the popularity and likelihood of repeat purchases for menu items. This helps owners make informed decisions to improve their menu offerings.

Another innovative, AI-based ordering solution was "Queenie" from SapientX. When you place your order with Queenie, it uses advanced natural language processing algorithms to understand and process your request accurately. Attendees were impressed by Queenie's ability to handle complex orders, even those with customizations and dietary restrictions. This effortless and user-friendly ordering experience showcases the potential of AI-powered solutions to transform how we interact with restaurant technology.

No alt text provided for this image was another showstopper with its new product, ProFlow™, a bartending AI system. This innovative solution merges AI and robotics to optimize drink preparation, potentially increasing efficiency and accuracy. The system features a bartender avatar on a large screen, allowing customers to interact with it and choose their preferred drink from a secondary touchscreen display. This interface is designed to be user-friendly and hassle-free, with voice controls and photos of available drinks. The system has a strong analytics dashboard on the backend that lets you personalize your experience and view information about all the drinks prepared. According to their dashboard, conference attendees favored Bourbon old-fashioneds by a sizable margin. and its innovative solution for beverage preparation was one of the stand outs at the show.

Restaurantology - A game-changing business intelligence platform for the industry

One of the most impressive platforms at the show was Restaurantology, a groundbreaking business intelligence platform particularly useful for those in the restaurant industry. This platform integrates smoothly into your workflow as a browser extension and provides valuable data from an on-demand food service insight database. With access to over 15,000 restaurant profiles, including ownership hierarchies, photos, news, and more, users can access confirmed unit counts and calculated service types, such as full service, limited service, buffet, and food trucks.

What sets Restaurantology apart is its detailed technology stack insights. The platform tracks over 400 essential technologies specific to the restaurant industry, such as Point of Sale (POS) type, online ordering provider, and loyalty programs. This simplifies researching restaurants, providing valuable insights and data-driven analysis. During a live demonstration, I was impressed by how easily the platform consolidated market trends, restaurant concept types, and industry benchmarks. With Restaurantology, manual research becomes a thing of the past, as the platform offers a seamless and efficient approach to understanding the restaurant landscape.

Embracing the future of dining

The National Restaurant Association Show in 2023 showcased the profound influence of technology on the dining experience. Predictive and conversational AI, integrated POS systems, and data-driven insights are among the innovative developments that demonstrate how technology is revolutionizing the restaurant industry.

As a restaurant professional, it is crucial to embrace these advancements and stay ahead of the curve. Key trends such as AI, automation, and digitization of back-of-house operations drive efficiency and streamline processes. Adopting these advancements is vital for restaurants to thrive in this ever-evolving industry. By leveraging technology, restaurants can create exceptional guest experiences, optimize operations, and stay competitive. It is time to take action and implement these innovative solutions that will shape the future of dining.

Take the first step in transforming your restaurant today by embracing the potential of AI, automation, and digitization. Stay ahead of the curve, optimize your operations, and provide unforgettable dining experiences. The future is here, and it's time to lead the way.

If you're ready to unlock your restaurant's full potential, contact us to explore how these innovative technologies can revolutionize your business and ensure your success in the ever-evolving world of dining.

About the author

Scot Westwater is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at Pragmatic, an expert in conversational AI and Voice technology with over 24 years in design, UX, and digital strategy. His work focuses on enhancing marketing and customer experience through the use of Artificial Intelligence. A notable figure in the industry, Scot co-authored 'Voice Strategy' and 'Voice Marketing' (2023), and contributes as an Open Voice Network Ambassador and an instructor at the Marketing AI Institute.

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