Automated Restaurants: The New Dining Experience in Toronto

As you might have noticed in recent years, more and more businesses are implementing contactless elements in their business. Such as contactless checkout in grocery stores, or digital kiosks at McDonald’s. This is especially prevalent during these times where we are encouraged to limit human interactions and to social distance. Many businesses today are trying to adapt their business to the new landscape and provide customers with the same quality experience while keeping their customers safe.
As we enter the ‘new normal’ we can expect to see more business in Toronto that utilizes automation in their daily operations.
What Are Automated Restaurants?
Automated restaurant as the name suggests is a restaurant that incorporates automation in its business operations. This may include using robots to deliver food and drinks or preparing the actual meal itself. Now you might be thinking, automation is a recent innovation. Well, you might be surprised to hear that automated restaurants have been around for over 50 years.
In the early 1970s, Japan had already started serving food through vending machines. Customers would order their food from vending machines, and a ticket would be dispensed from the vending machine, then they give it to the chef for their meal to be prepared. Automated restaurants were and still is a great method for businesses to increase their efficiency.
The Growing Interest in Automated Restaurants
Today, automated restaurants are still a novelty concept in Toronto. But with the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic, there has been a growing interest for businesses to incorporate automation in their business models, to not only increase the efficiency of the business but also to make sure that both their workers and customers are safe.
Over recent months, you might’ve seen that some of your local restaurants have changed the way they operate, examples such as using kiosks to order your meals, scanning QR codes to gain access to the menu and order your meals, or even robot servers who deliver your meals straight to your table. 
The Argument Against Automation
So far, we have discussed the many benefits that automation can provide to businesses, but not everyone’s on board. Employees such as those who work in customer service fear that the increased use of automation will put their jobs at risk, as well as decrease job opportunities in the future. This a rational fear as with automation, businesses will be able to lower overhead costs, while at the same time increasing their efficiency.
Customers are also against the idea of automation, as some customers enjoy human interaction when they visit their local restaurant or cafe. Traditionally, people don’t visit restaurants solely for the food, but they also enjoy the human element of it, which is why customer service is so important in maintaining customer loyalty.
Little things, such as remembering a customer’s order or their name, can really help with building a lasting relationship with customers. So it’s important to keep in mind that not all customers will love the idea of a fully automated restaurant.
Toronto’s First Fully-Automated Restaurant
In June of this year, Paramount Fine Foods opened Toronto’s first fully-automated restaurant called Box’d. This is not your typical automated store, as it’s not limited to just self-ordering and self-checkout. At Box’d, they offer an innovative way of delivering a quality dining experience to customers. 
Instead of lining up, customers will be able to place an order straight from their phones using the Box’d app, or they can order in the store from a digital kiosk. Customers can track their order status from a digital status board within the store, and once their food is ready, they are notified on which digital cubbies and shelves to pick up their food from.
Box’d offers a one-of-a-kind experience for customers to order, pay, and pick up their food. Customers will be able to order in advance, select the time they want to pick it up, and their food will be ready for them when they arrive.
The restaurant has 9 employees, with certified chefs who are preparing all the meals. At Box’d, you will find traditional Middle-Eastern cuisines, where its focus is on fresh and healthy eating. This couldn’t have been a better time for the opening of Box’d, as people are encouraged to socially distance and limit human interactions. Additionally, Box’d also implement extensive cleaning and sanitation practices, where their kiosk and cubbies are immediately sanitized after each use.
What Does This Mean for Dining in Toronto in the Future?
As we enter the ‘new normal’, it’s highly likely that more and more restaurants will adopt automation in their business operations. Over the next few years, we hope to see more innovative ways for businesses to serve and prepare their food and drinks. As the number of automation increases, this shouldn’t cause concerns for workers’ job security. According to a survey, most respondents felt that automation will actually make the job easier, with 30% found that using technology resulted in better pay and more job security. The goal of automats is not to replace workers, such as waiters, baristas, bartenders as they provide a human element that just cannot be replicated by machines. In the future, we can expect more businesses similar to Box’d, which offers customers easier access to quick and delicious food.