Restaurants may be more sophisticated than ever, but the technologies that make up their environments still remain largely unknown to consumers.
According to a report from research firm Technavio, just over half of respondents believe that technology is important in their restaurants, but only one-third believe it is critical for their food safety.
That sentiment is echoed by restaurateurs themselves.
“I’m always concerned that my technology will be compromised,” said Jim Caulkins, owner of the popular restaurant chain, Caulks and Co. “When I look at the industry today, it’s not that there’s no technology.
It’s just that the industry hasn’t thought about it.”
“The first time I went to a restaurant, I had no idea what the technology was,” said Tony Sorensen, co-founder of the global technology company, Soren’s.
“It’s not a technology that has been thought of.”
Sorensens’ business model has become so ingrained in the food industry that he’s even found himself working at restaurants with different technologies than his own.
“I was in New York City last year and there were some restaurants in Manhattan that had the same type of technology that we did, so it made me feel like I was in the same space as those guys,” he said.
The latest innovation, however, could be far more revolutionary than what the restaurant industry is currently embracing.
Technavio analyzed nearly 300 food-safety questions posed to restaurant owners over a six-month period.
Of the responses, 41 percent were positive, including a majority of respondents who said they were confident in their technology.
Among those who were unsure about the technology’s safety, only 16 percent were confident, and just one-quarter said they felt safe in their kitchens.
Only about 10 percent of respondents said they didn’t have a lot of experience in food safety, and less than half of them said they would be willing to invest in technology that could make their kitchens safer.
“The question is, do we really need that much of an investment in technology to make our kitchens safer?” asked Sorenesen.
“Or is there enough investment that we don’t need to worry about it?”
It’s no secret that food safety is a huge concern for many consumers.
About half of Americans are concerned about food safety and its impact on their health.
In addition to concerns about food, foodborne illnesses have become an issue in recent years.
In the past, outbreaks have been attributed to a lack of refrigeration, a lack-of-food hygiene and a lack, for example, of adequate food packaging.
This year, the Food and Drug Administration has issued several warnings on food-borne illness and has proposed new food-processing rules that are expected to significantly reduce the risk of foodborne illness in the United States.
Some restaurants, like Soreys and Sorenersen, have found ways to mitigate the risks posed by their food systems.
However, others, like Caulkin, have taken a different approach.
While many restaurants are still developing the technology that makes up their kitchens, the companies that do are taking advantage of a growing trend toward automated technologies.
As the restaurant and food-service industries continue to expand, consumers will increasingly be able to monitor their food and know exactly what’s going on in their establishments, with a single tap of a finger.