Technology is always advancing; sometimes quicker than it seems we can keep up. The best thing about existing in a rapidly evolving marketplace, especially after all the change this past year and a half has brought about, is that it prompts an incredible opportunity to streamline food service operations.
At RPI Industries, we look at how food service equipment can help to contribute to the patron’s dining experience. This has been especially important throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, where we had to massively shift our focus to cater to the take-out and delivery dining experience. Technologies that assist in or makes pickup/delivery more efficient like online POS systems, mobile ordering apps, and food lockers were without a doubt the most investable. Rather than abandoning these pandemic-centered innovations, with normalcy now on the horizon, I think we should be looking to merge this new reality with the one we used to know.
Ultimately, what we are doing is rethinking the flow from kitchen to either dining room, takeout, or food locker which comes down to compartmentalizing, and how to best serve these different segments of customers. We must look at the segment of people who prioritize their dining experience above all else, as well as the segment of customers who just want their food as quickly, conveniently, and high-quality as possible.
Moving forward, especially once the honeymoon phase of COVID restrictions being lifted wears off, we must think about how to continue to improve the in-person dining experience, while still keeping up with the contactless nature and increased safety protocols produced by the pandemic. I definitely think the days of the salad bar are over. Socially we are more hyperaware than ever of cleanliness and disinfection protocols, and we want to keep a focus on hygiene even after seating distance and restaurant capacities return to normal.
One way we have merged these ideas is by focusing on equipment used in micro-markets. Micro-markets are essentially pop-up food areas with little to no cashier service and a conglomeration of grab and go items. Most of the current micro-market solutions do not cater towards a particularly high-quality takeout experience. Meaning food and beverages may not be kept at an optimal temperature until customer pickup. Equipment such as temperature-controlled display cases and hot/cold food lockers can facilitate a more positive grab-n-go experience. Most display cases are oriented towards packaged goods like bags of chips and bottled drinks but can also be useful in storing things like pre-made hot sandwiches, which is still a meal without being made to order. This essentially gives you a revenue source without needing the labor force to convert that revenue stream into a profit. Anything that makes things move quickly and more efficiently translates directly into dollars.
RPI has always been on the cutting edge of creating things that rethink the service aspect of a restaurant, and I think the integration of interconnected technology will help keep us there. As a restaurant or food service operation owner, the main concern is trusting that the equipment you buy is going to last and have as little maintenance as possible. Our challenge is to provide them not only with reliable equipment, but with smart, interconnected equipment as well. That is where I see us headed as part of the next generation of food service equipment manufacturers.
To accomplish that goal, of producing solution driven high-quality equipment, we know that all roads lead to integration with smart phone technology. With the touch of a button the restaurant owner could find out: when was this equipment installed? When is it due for the next service? When is the warranty expiring for this or that?
So, for today’s manufacturer, I think this next step forward is not about labor-saving machinery in our factory. It’s about maximizing the equipment already on the floor so that the labor staff can focus on things like quality control and customer experience. Most importantly, we want to be the answer bringing efficiency to a food service operation.