Wing Zone gets a robotic treatment

As restaurants continue to struggle with labor issues, many are looking for ways to integrate automation into more and more of their daily operations.

Earlier this month, for example, Santa Monica-based incubator Wavemaker Labs, known for launching a range of restaurant automation brands including Miso Robotics, and Atlanta-based fast-casual brand Wing Zone, which has more than 60 locations in the United States and abroad. , announced the launch of Wing area labsan automation-focused franchisee in Southern California.

Kevin MorrisPresident of Wavemaker Labs and CFO and Board Member of Miso Robotics, spoke with PYMNTS about how this initiative fits into the company’s vision for the future of the industry.

“We’re taking a growing category, which is fried wings,” Morris said. “The category has done pretty well on COVID. Our goal is to build the restaurant or franchise of the future. … So what we’re trying to do is take a growing food category … that’s very delivery and take-out focused, but still has … a lot of labor issues work … [and] inject automation, so that we can allow our restaurants to have profitable margins and allow the employees who are in the restaurant to focus more on some of the higher value things.

Where they want it, when they want it

Indeed, since the start of the pandemic, demand for delivery has exploded, and this demand has remained in place even as many consumers have resumed their daily lives. Contagion concerns or not, diners are ordering more delivery, according to data from PYMNTS’ April study, “Digital Divide: The Key Factors That Drive Restaurant Choice,” created in collaboration with Paytronix.

Read more: From outdoor seating to contactless payments, dining habits are changing

The study, which is based on a survey of more than 2,600 American adults, found that consumers are significantly more likely to order more often than before for delivery through aggregators. The same goes for ordering online through a restaurant’s website and ordering takeout by phone.

Additionally, a study in the March/April edition of the Digital Divide series, “The Digital Divide: Regional Variations in US Food Ordering Trends and Digital Adoption,” also created in conjunction with Paytronix, found that approximately one consumer out of three orders from delivery aggregators each. month.

See more : New research shows that regional idiosyncrasies in dining matter in tailoring restaurant offerings

Here and now

In addition to the popularity of wings on digital ordering channels, Morris noted that the category is well suited to get the automation treatment because the technology is simpler and more feasible than other types of take-out and take-out food. deliver.

“Wings are a category that’s a little easier to automate than, say, sandwiches,” Morris said. “They’re pretty commoditized in the sense that there aren’t really a lot of custom orders.”

Unlike a burger, the wings aren’t cooked to varying degrees of doneness, and unlike sandwiches, there are no ingredient additions or substitutions to worry about.

In general, Morris said, in the rush to automate industry, some might put the cart before the horse, so to speak, go all-in on systems that may not yet be ready to go. ‘install.

Specifically, he said he thinks some of the delivery automation efforts, with drones and sidewalk rovers carrying restaurant orders, may be a long way from materializing. He added that while “obviously” these types of innovations “are the future”, there is still a long way to go before they can “gain traction”.

He said not only was transporting food a tricky business, but the bureaucracy to get legal approval in cities, states and counties slowed the process down considerably.

“I think it’s going to take a while to be more ubiquitous,” he said. “You’re not just trying to get customers to adopt them, but you’re dealing with laws, [and] each jurisdiction has a different law.

just started

In the nearer future, Morris predicted that smart food storage lockers will become more common, as will the use of computer vision in food preparation and production to track food quality and food progress. cooking.

Also, while he expects that robotics will at some point be able to communicate between different internal processes, he noted that since different systems are made by different technology companies, it will take consolidation across the board. space (or other vendors creating systems capable of integrating these disparate elements) to make this possible.

Overall, he said many industry players underestimate the importance of technologies such as these.

“A lot of people we’ve spoken to think the labor crisis will go away and wages will come back down, but we don’t see it,” Morris said. “I think this is the first step in what is going to be a boon of all sorts of automation in the background across all food categories.”


About: Results from PYMNTS’ new study, “The Super App Shift: How Consumers Want To Save, Shop And Spend In The Connected Economy,” a collaboration with PayPal, analyzed responses from 9,904 consumers in Australia, Germany, UK and USA. and showed strong demand for one super multi-functional app rather than using dozens of individual apps.

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Cecil N. Messick