The future of AI in the restaurant industry


The restaurant industry is on the cusp of an AI-driven transformation. While the idea of robots and artificial intelligence in our dining experiences may seem like something for a dystopian future, these emerging technologies are real and present an opportunity to elevate hospitality.

From reducing wait times to streamlining operations, AI has the potential to allow human staff to focus on what they do best—delivering outstanding service and creating memorable experiences.
Rather than replacing people, AI can be an enabling tool that makes dining out all the more enjoyable. Discover how the future is unfolding and what it means for your next reservation.

AI and restaurants: what’s happening now

Like many other industries, hospitality is experiencing a shift as artificial intelligence (AI) gains more traction and drives a wave of innovation and operational efficiencies. The numbers speak volumes about AI’s rise in the space.

  • An impressive 37% of restaurant operators believed AI would become a significant part of the industry within just five years back in 2018, underscoring its disruptive potential.
  • Nearly 50% of operators now cite integrated technology platforms using AI as a top priority for streamlining reservations, table management and guest service.
  • It’s projected that a remarkable 80% of restaurant interactions will soon be machine-handled, likely through AI-powered solutions.

The AI adoption is fueled by its transformative impact:

  • The global AI market for restaurants was valued at $112.2 million (£90m) in 2020 alone.
  • Forecasts indicate this market will swell to a whopping $1.32 billion (£1bn) by 2028 as more establishments integrate AI capabilities.
  • Over one-third of restaurants plan AI-driven back-office tech upgrades within the next year to optimise operations.
  • Even in a 2021 survey, half of all restaurants had plans to use some form of AI-enabled automation.

The overwhelming industry consensus? AI integration is the future:

  • A promising 71.6% of operators plan to adopt AI solutions soon, according to

With the potential for wide-spread adoption and operational optimisation, personalised service and unforgettable hospitality, AI is quickly positioning itself as the defining innovation of the modern restaurant era.

How AI helps restaurant

So everyone is getting excited about using AI in restaurants, but what does it look like in action? Not only that, but how will AI help with certain aspects of running a restaurant in the future? Short of robot staff (we’re a very long way from that and might never meet those expectations), what exactly does AI look like in a restaurant?

Serving guests

AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants are evolving the guest experience by providing instant, personalised service at every touchpoint. From handling reservations and enquiries to offering tailored food recommendations based on individual tastes and dietary needs, these smart solutions elevate customer service to new heights of attentiveness and convenience.

For example, Wingstop is changing the ordering experience through a partnership with ConverseNow, which uses voice AI virtual assistants for phone orders. These conversational assistants can juggle multiple orders at once, reducing wait times while providing personalised menu recommendations. They process orders in English and Spanish for an effortless, tailored experience for all guests.

Acquiring new diners

Every social platform uses AI to power its algorithms for surfacing content and targeted advertising based on user behaviours. For restaurants, this equates to opportunities for highly targeted marketing that puts your brand in front of the ideal potential diners. AI gives you the tools to create hyper-relevant ads tailored to specific demographics and interests.

Using AI for personalised marketing, US chain Chili’s analyses customer data to craft tailored ads and messages that resonate. This targeted approach using individual demographics and interests has driven increased engagement and boosted sales for the casual dining chain, underscoring AI’s power for pinpoint promotion.

Helping with food waste

Tackling the industry’s pervasive issue of food waste, AI-powered inventory management and forecasting solutions allow restaurants to predict demand and optimise stock levels with more accuracy. By leveraging historical sales data, these systems see to it that you only order what’s truly needed based on real-time insights into dining patterns and popular menu items.

Ikea might be a furniture brand, but it also has fast-food restaurants in its stores, and it uses AI to reduce food waste. It uses Winnow Vision, an AI system that employs cameras and smart scales to monitor food waste in the restaurants. The system captures data on the types and quantities of food being discarded, providing real-time insights into waste patterns. This allows IKEA to adjust their inventory and production levels more accurately, ensuring they only order and prepare what is truly needed.

Employee satisfaction

AI is even playing a role in streamlining operations to boost staff morale. Intelligent employee scheduling platforms harness machine learning to build optimised rotas aligned with forecasted demand, specific staff skill certifications and licences, and external factors like weather or events. The result? Less overworked shifts, improved productivity and higher workplace satisfaction.

Fourth’s Intelligent Scheduling uses AI to combine various factors for Thai Leisure Group, including staff availability, weather conditions, external events and historical demand data, to accurately forecast revenue and staffing needs for each shift. This ensures that the restaurant is neither overstaffed or understaffed, aligning labour resources with actual demand


AI content creation tools like ChatGPT offer intriguing potential for fueling restaurant marketing efforts. These natural language processors can quickly generate everything from content plans to topic ideas, providing a solid starting point for easy creative customization aligned with your brand voice. The caveat, of course, is that they can do some of the work regarding marketing but not all of it. Humans are still needed to add creativity, fact check and generally oversee the output of these AI tools.

As AI capabilities continue advancing at a blistering pace, and it’s clear the technology will only become more ubiquitous and embedded into every part of the restaurant experience. While far from removing the human element that’s so vital to genuine hospitality, AI has the ability to represent a tool for streamlining operations and delivering the extraordinary, anticipatory service that modern diners crave.

What does the future hold for restaurants and AI?

While AI integration is still in its relative infancy within the restaurant space, the possibilities for how this powerful technology could reshape and enhance hospitality experiences seem almost limitless. As the capabilities of machine learning, predictive analytics, automation and natural language processing continue to evolve at pace, we’re only just scratching the surface of AI’s transformative potential.

Dynamic pricing and predictive demand

Looking ahead, AI is poised to bring even greater sophistication to areas like dynamic pricing models that can automatically adjust menu costs based on predictive demand forecasting and external factors. Imagine a world where your restaurant easily maximises profits during peak hours while deploying smart limited-time offers to incentivize traffic during traditionally slower periods.
Operational efficiency and kitchen automation

On the operational front, AI-powered kitchen automation could streamline back-of-house duties from expediting to food prep work—freeing up valuable staff resources to focus on attentive guest service. Harnessing real-time sales data and historical trends, AI inventory management systems may soon automatically generate purchase orders and control stock levels with surplus ingredients earmarked for creative specials. The reduction in food waste and inefficiencies could be game-changing.

Immersive dining experiences

And as virtual reality and augmented reality dining experiences inevitably emerge, AI will play a central role in those immersive hospitality concepts. From reactive, responsive environments to personalised multi-sensory menu pairings based on biometrics—the melding of artificial and experiential intelligence promises extraordinary new realms of gustatory delights.
Personalised service and guest intelligence

Amid these advances and novelties, AI’s ability to personalise and elevate service through data-driven guest intelligence and human-like interactions will continue gaining remarkable sophistication. Imagine a world where your restaurant’s AI concierge greets guests by their name and knows their favourite dishes, wine preferences and dietary restrictions. It creates a bespoke experience tailored to each individual.

The future is uncertain, but one truth is clear: AI’s role in redefining and enhancing the restaurant experience is only set to grow more universal and essential in the years ahead. The possibilities are simultaneously thrilling and vast—incentivising operators to embrace intelligent hospitality as the new standard for exceeding modern guests’ lofty expectations.

Will AI mean less jobs for real people in the restaurant industry?

The potential rise of AI in the restaurant industry will understandably lead to concerns about its potential impact on human employment. After all, the idea of intelligent machines and automation replacing people’s roles can be unsettling. When it comes to hospitality, however, the human element remains irreplaceable. Use in the right way, AI’s role will be to enhance and complement exceptional service, not overshadow it entirely.

Making it personable

The restaurant experience relies on warmth, empathy and those spontaneous personal connections formed between staff and guests. While AI can certainly streamline operations through efficient order processing or inventory management, it can’t replicate the genuine hospitality only passionate people provide. The intangible magic of an intuitive server who knows the right things to say or a bartender who crafts your perfect drink—those are the flourishes AI can’t authentically recreate.

Making humans better

What AI does offer restaurants is an opportunity to reduce staff’s mundane administrative workloads through automation and data-driven intelligence. It can handle repetitive tasks more efficiently, freeing up human employees to focus on what they do best. That’s delivering exceptional, attentive hospitality. Rather than stealing jobs, AI acts as an enabler that elevates the roles and performances of real people.

The restaurant brands that will thrive in the AI-powered landscape are those striking the perfect balance, using artificial intelligence wisely to optimise operations while simultaneously championing the importance of human creativity and genuine hospitality.

Because at the end of the day, it’s the people behind the technology who create the warmth, personality and memorable experiences that keep guests coming back.

OpenTable and AI

OpenTable is acutely aware of AI’s transformative potential in the restaurant industry. We’re thinking about ways to use AI capabilities to elevate both the operator and diner experience. On the restaurant side, OpenTable has already introduced AI-powered tools to streamline time-consuming tasks like responding to online reviews with contextually relevant, on-brand replies. These are rolling out in the U.S. and will be in other countries soon.

AI-driven solutions for automated phone reservations and customer support are also in the works, giving staff time to to focus on delivering exceptional in-person hospitality. As for diners, OpenTable sees AI as a central aspect to consolidating and distilling the high number of online reviews, menus and information into curated, personalised recommendations tailored to each guest’s unique preferences and criteria.

The vision is for AI to serve as an intelligent concierge, guiding diners to their perfect restaurant match based on filters like cuisine, group size, dietary needs and more. Taking advantage of AI to tackle mundane tasks while surfacing meticulously customised options means OpenTable can help redefine guest convenience and unlock new frontiers of hospitality for its large network of restaurant partners.

Summary: AI in restaurants

As AI reshapes the hospitality landscape (and many others), its true power lies in complementing exceptional human service, not replacing it. By judiciously integrating intelligent solutions that streamline operations, restaurants can empower their people to focus on delivering those memorable personal connections that cultivate guest loyalty. Embracing AI is the future, but only when balanced with celebrating the indispensable human ingenuity at hospitality’s core.