Reinventing Restaurants: Smart IoT for Ghost Kitchens

The pandemic forced restaurants to shift to a take-away model, a trend that will likely remain. Third-party delivery apps make food delivery easy and have fueled the growth of ghost kitchens. Now restaurants have to ensure they can bring the dining-in experience to the customer at home.

 

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Image credit: UdyogYantra Technologies

Restaurants were hit hard by the pandemic. After being shuttered, they opened but with limited capacity. To survive, restaurants have had to reinvent themselves and heavily push carry-out options. The dining experience has changed, and much of it hinges on delivery.

The use of popular food ordering apps such as DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub has skyrocketed. Grubhub revenues climbed 39 percent in 2020, as the company welcomed new diners and restaurants into its fold. Active diners grew 39 percent, and gross food sales reached $8.7 billion, a 47 percent increase over 2019.

 

Ghost Kitchens Appear

The closing of restaurants and the rise of food delivery services has led to an increase in ghost kitchens. Also known as dark, cloud, or virtual kitchens, ghost kitchens are cost-effective, delivery-only restaurants with no in-person dining space. They can operate from closed (or open) restaurants, but more often are found in buildings, warehouses, and even shipping containers.

With far less overhead than a traditional eatery, ghost kitchens are an easy entry point for new restaurateurs. They rely solely on online ordering and delivery systems to reach customers. Partnering with third-party delivery apps gives these virtual restaurants immediate exposure to a large potential customer base. The critical components for success are robust online ordering systems, good food, and reliable delivery.

One challenge for all restaurants is ensuring food is delivered properly, especially when using third-party delivery companies. UdyogYantra Technologies has developed the AI-IoT Enabled Cloud Kitchen Management Platform and Smart Food QC kiosk. Part of the Intel® IoT Solutions Marketplace, the Smart Food QC kiosk provides a quality control check for restaurants offering delivery. 

Assuring QC for Food Delivery

UdyogYantra uses the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to give kitchens more control as they bridge the gap between food orders and delivery. The Smart Food QC kiosk provides metrics for the quantity and quality of food before it is delivered, making restaurants more accountable to the customer and to the bottom line.

Developed using the Intel® NUC Kit with Intel® Celeron® Processors and the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit, Smart Food QC uses sensors and cameras to check the weight, temperature, and presentation of each food item. The data is fed through a cloud-based AI engine that combines deep learning, facial recognition,* and object detection and recognition technologies to ensure food safety and quality before the food is approved for delivery. 

The system tracks who prepared the food and ensures the item falls within predetermined weight parameters. It also can monitor and check for dietary preferences, display brand logos, and include a QR code scan for the food item.

Diagram identifies different parts of IoT kitchen

Image credit: UdyogYantra Technologies

The Smart Food QC Cloud Management Platform has an integrated food inventory management system called Kitchen TrackON. The software allows restaurant managers to access a dashboard with data from all points of the process, from order creation to food preparation to quality control. TrackON breaks down costs related to specific food items, enabling restaurant owners to pinpoint waste or improper pricing. It also tracks employee efficiency and location profitability, so owners can adjust operations if needed.

Some experts indicate that food delivery will remain a key part of the restaurant business. Even post-COVID, food delivery could comprise half a restaurant’s tickets. Rather than cutting into dining out experiences, food delivery will compete with grocery stores for revenue. To keep those customers, restaurants should ensure their food isn’t compromised when delivered.                            

*Note: Intel is committed to respecting human rights and avoiding complicity in human rights abuses. See Intel’s Global Human Rights Principles. Intel’s products and software are intended only to be used in applications that do not cause or contribute to a violation of an internationally recognized human right.

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