Management By George (Jetson): Automation In Foodservice

foodservice automation

You know what really pushes my buttons? A bad case of forward-itis, that predilection to impulsively kick-the-can down the road. Most of us know in our hearts that simply forwarding an email doesn’t really constitute managing people. Copying all, or dictating an administrative fiat can no longer substitute for a well-defined strategy. Even though, like George Jetson in the cartoon, it sometimes feels like our only role in the management process is to simply press the keys on a computer.

Joe Ferri
Joe Ferri

Our reliance on automation creeps into every area of business, not only into communications.  You must keep in mind, however, that current technology cannot replace leadership (and probably won’t either, at least for the near future).  We humans can – and should – augment our abilities with the latest available tech, making use of its time-saving and productivity components. Similarly, we must update our own skillsets regularly, if only to just keep pace with the advances of the automation in foodservice.

Robots, artificial intelligence (A.I.), and the internet of things (IOT) are all coming to a foodservice operation near you.  Being a master of, and not a slave to, these initiatives ought to be the goal of everyone, especially managers and would-be managers.  Automation in our industry will be redefining all our roles from here on out.

Presently, we can’t rely upon any of these tools for all but the most rote tasks, although there are plenty of those that can be disrupted, thus driving out inefficiencies.   

So, what is it that we humans will be doing?  Overseeing burger-flipping droids?  Scheduling fry-bots?  Programming autonomous delivery vehicles?  Cleaning up the mess when one of these goes astray?  Yes, absolutely, sure and you-betcha!

Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show 2017 728×90

We’re already doing some of this right now. Much of our world has defaulted to the self-service mode, due in part to the constant barrage of apps being introduced. Integrating people with systems represents the biggest challenge to our industry.

Forces at play, including the rising minimum wage, health insurance uncertainties, and a plethora of unfunded government mandates have conspired to make the foodservice industry ripe for automation.  Add to these, our reliance on mobile devices, a shrinking pool of willing available talent, and shifting traffic patterns, and you have the perfect storm for
disruption.

The future of driverless cars, drone deliveries, mobile-app ordering, and meal kits has arrived. Opportunities abound! Today’s supervisor might well face a workforce of meatbags, cyborgs and androids. Will you be prepared for the challenge of overlaying automation on existing ecosystems? 

Managing all of it will fall upon those who have mastered the latest techniques, intuitively knowing which buttons to push, and which tasks to delegate. The alternative to getting ahead of the changes lying ahead: Will there be a robot managing you?

Joe Ferri (aka the Foodiequipper) was conceived in a Greenwich Village speakeasy’s walk-in box, the love child of the hat check girl and bartender. He is in his fifth decade of (somewhat) gainful employment in the foodservice industry. He is past chairman of MAFSI and currently COO of Pecinka Ferri Assoc., a NY area equipment, furnishings and supplies representative.