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The use of technology in restaurants

Tim Hortons is changing its approach to customer service and is taking responsibility for single-use coffee cops and food waste entering landfills.
Tim Hortons is changing its approach to customer service and is taking responsibility for single-use coffee cops and food waste entering landfills.

By Che Baird

Tim Hortons attracted attention—and created office debate—with news it would be making its annual Roll Up The Rim To Win contest more environmentally friendly. Changes included the campaign being primarily based online with disposable cups available for the first two weeks of the contest. Customers who used reusable cups had even more chances to win. Part of this strategy was to position the franchise as a sustainable brand. Elements of the contest were later revised amid COVID-19 concerns.

“We have many guests come to our restaurant and they care deeply about viability and giving back to the community, just like we do,” said Hugo Ouellet, a franchisee in Bertheville, Que. “I think consumers are really going to embrace the initiatives we started.”

Similar to other large food-service franchise systems, Tim Hortons is changing its approach to customer service and is taking responsibility for single-use coffee cups and food waste entering landfills. McDonald’s and Taco Bell have also made comparable commitments by identifying ailment refuse as a vital part of broader sustainability goals. Indeed, customers are seeking out companies who are making a pledge to the environment. In a competitive marketplace how can restaurants turn these ambitions into measurable results? One answer to this question is through technology.

Why innovation matters

As the restaurant industry continues to change its businesses to reflect sustainable strategies and policies, it will increasingly need to rely on back-of-house (BOH) technology to stay competitive while making the right choices for the planet. According to the food research and consulting firm, Technomic, “while almost three quarters of operators (72 per cent) recognize the need to focus on sustainable practices, they also understand they need support in achieving their sustainability targets.” This is where manufacturers can support restaurants to meet the demands of customers against tight margins and high overhead costs. For example, producers can support franchises by identifying ways to reduce food waste and lower running costs (according to Technomic, 39 per cent of independent restaurants state aliment garbage has the greatest impact on their business) by providing owners with tools to monitor trash that is created and adjust orders accordingly.

The future is now

The technology is here to enable smart systems to operate in one’s favourite lunch place with capabilities such as ensuring customers’ orders arrive on time. When point-of-sale (POS), mobile apps, and BOH systems work in unison, the result is a solution that can keep track of what items are being used and adjust menu order requests accordingly—without any need for human intervention. End-to-end solutions can minimize food waste, drive efficiencies, reduce losses, increase customer engagement, and improve revenue. That said, as the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning becomes more sophisticated, restaurants will be able change many variables such as a shortage of products at a busy time of the month to ordering the right amount of inventory.

The business example

Research shows decreasing garbage is not just good for the environment—it is beneficial for the bottom line. A 2019 study by the non-profit World Resources Institute looked at financial data from 114 restaurants in 12 countries that took actions to reduce aliment refuse and found for each dollar invested, restaurants saved an average of $7. Overall, outlets in the study reduced food waste by an average of 26 per cent annually, and 58 per cent over a three-year period. This brings these spaces in accordance with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development goal of decreasing the amount of global culinary refuse in half. Most businesses started making changes by measuring food waste and scaling back orders accordingly.

Case in point

To put this in perspective, Mary Brown’s Chicken & Taters, one of the country’s largest chicken quick-service restaurants (QSRs), was in dire need of a POS system upgrade to meet the company’s aggressive expansion plans. By introducing intuitive AI technology, the franchise was able to streamline various processes and boost efficiencies—the most notable being in its kitchens. Productivity increased and order accuracy vastly improved, reducing overall aliment garbage and leaving a positive impact on the company’s net profits.

The bottom line

According to the UN, if food waste were its own country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter. Further, as restaurants strive to make sustainability targets for decreasing aliment refuse, suppliers of technology have an important role to play. Manufacturers need to continue to innovate and provide solutions for franchisees looking to increase efficiency and tackle the problem of waste.

Tim Hortons is changing its approach to customer service and is taking responsibility for single-use coffee cups and food waste entering landfills.

Che Baird is the national business development manager of QSR and retail solutions at Panasonic Canada. For more information, visit https://na.panasonic.com/ca/quick-service-restaurants.

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