Placing orders for a restaurant is often time-consuming. Depending on the size of the restaurant and the planned daily production, orders are placed every day, and in other cases, every 2-3 days. This responsibility is best entrusted to an experienced employee who can determine the inventory needs for the upcoming days, select the optimal quality of products, and compare product prices. The fast-paced nature of our industry, ordering at night after a busy day, increases the risk of errors, which comes with consequences.
The future of gastronomy doesn't have to, and probably won't, look the same. Solutions utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology are here to help forecast demand and determine the order quantities. In the long run, there are more benefits to such solutions. Utilizing intelligent inventory planning systems allows for the optimization of the entire inventory management process (known as warehouse management) and minimizes losses. Both of these aspects are crucial in the context of sustainable business practices, which are especially important in the face of current economic challenges.
Demand forecasting is a critical operation for every production company that deals with this challenge on a daily basis. In the context of the restaurant industry and individual restaurants, demand refers to the number of guests, while production is nothing more than the process of preparing dishes or their components. The next question to ask is how AI-powered systems (which have already started a significant revolution in the market) can assist restaurateurs and restaurant staff in their daily work and beyond.
The starting point is sales and historical data provided by POS systems, which most restaurants and food establishments currently use. These data primarily concern sales volume and the number of transactions (bills) within a selected timeframe. Using AI to analyze the data provided by POS systems enables an extended analysis of sales, including identifying trends, seasonality, and other factors that affect sales. Furthermore, AI can detect the smallest changes and hidden patterns in data, allowing for real-time adjustments to forecasts and more precise determination of the demand for specific products and ingredients. Reservation systems used in restaurants also significantly assist in demand planning. Integrating the reservation system with the demand forecasting system will make order planning even more accurate.
With access to forecasts and recommendations prepared by AI, it becomes easier to determine the order quantities for the next day or days. The execution of orders in the context of supplier collaboration and the potential to streamline this process is a separate topic worth further discussion. Shortages in deliveries are a common issue, and substitutes often do not meet expectations. A significant improvement and a way to avoid such shortages would be the ability to verify the ingredients' availability when placing orders with suppliers. In our opinion, this is another area where AI can be successfully applied, ensuring efficient information flow between the restaurant and the supplier. Collaboration between two AI-powered systems could have a real chance of effectively planning inventory and optimizing the entire inventory management process.
An additional aspect and advantage of intelligent inventory planning systems is preventing excessive purchases and minimizing losses. This is particularly important for sustainable development and addressing the current economic challenges facing the restaurant industry. Additionally, AI can assist in identifying products with a short shelf life that should be used first. Waste management is currently one of the major challenges in the HoReCa market, and AI can help optimize this process.
In the market, there are already solutions whose growing popularity confirms the trend towards process automation. What can serve as an example is an autonomous robot that accurately measures the quantity of a served ingredient and then prepares e.g. a cocktail. Such systems utilize sensors and special software that ensure repeatability and adherence to recipes, which can greatly facilitate inventory management and reduce losses. With these systems, bars and restaurants can control the weight of ingredients (indirectly affecting the cost and quality of served drinks), thus providing control over margins and profitability, all while maintaining laboratory-like consistency. Additionally, alcohol dosing systems allow for monitoring consumption and sales trends (similar to POS systems with inventory management), which is essential for inventory planning.
The use of AI for data analysis and forecasting holds immense potential in the restaurant industry. It allows for the optimization of inventory management processes and significant reduction of losses. Investing in AI technology is an inevitable step toward efficient restaurant management.
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