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Imagine this, you casually walk into a restaurant, calmly place your order with the cashier at the counter, and before you can even pull out your debit card, said cashier is yelling to the back-of-house line cooks positioned directly behind them, “I need two Phillys, an order of onion rings and a side of friiiiiiies!”

As you stand there, slightly shell-shocked trying to regain some sense of peace considering that you are supposed to be on a relaxing meal break, when suddenly you’re snapped back to reality with the jarring sound of a bell ringing- ‘ding, Ding, DING’, and the shouting of the words “ORDER UP!” ‘Ding-ding-ding!’

Do you remember those days? Whether or not you do, your scream-less and seamless lunch orders these days are all thanks to BOH automation. And, while you might not miss all the bell ringing and yelling, chances are your local restaurant is missing the team members needed to fulfill your Philly and fries request.

Technology has revolutionized the manufacturing industry. Now, it’s translating that success into the restaurant industry on a broader scale. From robot food delivery (a topic we’ll dive into another day) to automated ordering systems, owners and operators are investing in food-tech to streamline their businesses in a way that cuts costs and maximizes on output, specifically in the back of house.

Let’s take a look at how BOH Automation is helping to ease the labor shortage problem, elevate customer experience and improve order accuracy and a few of Branded’s Portfolio companies making noise in the space.

Automation as a Labor Shortage Solution 

Over the past three years, we have seen alarming statistics indicating that a large number of former hospitality workers have no intention of returning to their old gigs. In fact, last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the quit rates among hospitality workers had reached 6.6% per month, more than double the national average. While we remain optimistic that these numbers will turn in favor for operators, we are focusing on technology to alleviate the immediate labor pain.

While the entire foodservice industry is attempting to rebuild its workforce, one company is actively on a mission to ease labor shortages through order automation. Branded Portfolio Company, Valyant AI, has built the world’s first customer service AI designed for existing retail hardware such as drive-through ordering machines.

Rob Carpenter, Founder, and CEO at Valyant AI, says,

“There’s a little bit of a labor crunch out there, one point seven million unfilled positions across the hospitality industry right now. So what we do is stick revolutionary, cutting-edge technology into your restaurant that greets customers, answers questions, takes the customer’s order, and then submits it directly into the point-of-sale system. Making the operators’ and the employees’ lives easier, and along the way, what we see is anywhere between a 5% to 20% increase in top-line revenue.”

He adds, “So if you’re doing one to two million a year, you can add 20% to your top-line overnight, while solving the labor problem.”

Improved Order Accuracy & Reduced Food Waste

For restaurants, food waste disrupts their bottom line in big ways, in billions of ways. According to the USDA, food waste is costing the industry $162 billion annually.

Agot AI  another Branded Portfolio Company, utilizes technology to tackle the biggest issues facing quick service restaurants today with solutions to improve order accuracy and reduce food waste. Agot allows operators to stop order errors in real-time with AI Kitchen Awareness.

Evan DeSantola, Co-Founder & CEO at Agot AI says,

“With our technology franchisees can reduce the majority of their order errors with almost no changes to the current off-flow. So the exact reduction is going to differ brand to brand and it’s mostly dependent on compliance of fixing these errors as they go out the door. But we’re talking near zero employee error rates as opposed to the current error rates.”

He adds, “We’re tracking from the beginning to the end of every single meal item. As they’re going in the bags, as all the ingredients are going on these individual meal items, as they go out to the customer and that really allows us to provide a ton of different effective points to provide value for the restaurant.”

Elevated Customer Experience

70% of restaurant guests are new customers, so it’s critical to make sure the customer’s experience is memorable for all the right reasons. Branded Portfolio Company Curbit helps operators excel in order timing by optimizing throughput and enhancing guest satisfaction.

Curbit, a cloud-based platform, elevates CX by minimizing wait times and maximizing guest satisfaction. Curbit takes the signals from the kitchen display system, digests everything that is happening in real time, and communicates that information to the guest.

The system makes it a guided journey from checkout to handoff, managing the guest’s arrival, expectations and experience. Scott Siegel, Co-Founder & CEO at Curbit says, “If I have a crappy pickup experience, I’m not going to return, but if all of a sudden, it’s seamless, it’s smooth, it’s easy, it’s frictionless, I’m going to come back.”

Automation is Here to Stay

According to a recent report, 50% of U.S. restaurant operators are planning to implement some form of automation technology in the next two to three years.

Automated kitchens can completely overhaul customer service by standardizing procedures and speeding up the kitchen which ultimately helps to provide an elevated customer experience, leading to better diner retention, new business, happy customers, and ultimately more revenue.

At the global level, the AI market is projected to grow to a value of $190.61 billion by 2025, while the food tech market will reach an estimated $342 billion by 2027.

At Branded, we subscribe to the theory that it takes a village. If you’re interested in exploring investment opportunities with Branded, please contact us directly.