Five digital trends revolutionizing the restaurant industry

Redefine the future of personalized guest experiences

This Photon blog discusses the five digital trends--AI, Mobile and Cloud-first, AR, personalization, and automation--which are revolutionizing the restaurant industry by helping restaurants elevate guest experiences.

Connect with Photon to learn more about our experiences in the restaurant industry and how we can help you digitally transform your restaurant brand.


To remain competitive in today’s digital age, restaurants need to effectively take inspiration to analyze and respond to latest digital trends in order to deliver highly-personalized guest experiences. From mobile-first to AI-first, a wide range of emerging digital technologies are set to transform restaurant-guest interactions. The end-to-end dining experience from touch-screen tablets to ordering through a chatbot, and from mobile tracking to guest loyalty, restaurants have transformed from traditional to digital operations. The emergence of promising new digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Mobile and Cloud-First, APIs and Microservices, Augmented and Virtual Reality intertwined with data is transforming how restaurants operate to deliver great guest experiences.

According to Local Consumer Review Survey 20171, 60% of consumers have read an online review at least once before visiting a restaurant. People experience innovative digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, personalization, mobile & cloud first, online tracking or touchless payments when they travel, shop or handle their finances, and they expect these digital conveniences in their dining experiences as well.

  • 79% of restaurant-goers think technology improves their dining experience (Consumer data)
  • 95% of restaurant-goers think technology improves their restaurant's efficiency (Restaurant owners)

Hence it becomes important for restaurants to leverage the latest digital technologies at the core of their business in order to have a transformative impact in driving guest engagement and building brand loyalty.

It is critical that the restaurateurs understand their guests, capitalize on the latest digital trends, and embrace new opportunities to engage guests in a highly personalized way. Read on to discover the next generation of digital trends that restaurants need to embrace in order to deliver highly-personalized guest experiences.

Digital trends revolutionizing the restaurant industry

  1. AI is the new UI for restaurant sector: Artificial Intelligence revenue is estimated to reach a whopping $36.8 billion worldwide by 2025 as enterprises across the globe are leveraging AI to improve customer experiences and operational efficiencies. From machine learning to speech recognition, natural language processing to chatbots, biometrics to robotic process automation, AI is making every user-interface seamless and easy. Major multi-brand and multi-chain restaurants are using AI to personalize food ordering and have smart conversations which provide a faster and more accurate response to guests. AI-driven chatbots are using guest’s order history to offer suggestions and make recommendations by learning their preferences and previous selections. 
    AI will soon power enterprises to integrate capabilities previously unthinkable for human-machine interaction. Voice recognition, virtual assistants, natural language processing and advanced robotics are already beginning to power digital disruptions in the restaurant industry. Opportunities exist for restaurants to shift priorities related to a number of technology initiatives to better serve guests and drive CX across the entire guest lifecycle.
  1. Mobile and cloud-first: Mobile and cloud-first strategies are now tablestakes in leading restaurants today. Mobile has created new norms from frictionless ordering through mobile devices, online reservations, seating notifications,  and customized menus. Mobile enables custom services that align to your brand and enable new experiences proprietary to your restaurant.  Cloud adoption facilitates the ability to adapt quicker to changes in restaurant software management and centralizes operational and guest data across franchises or chains. Allowing for new insights, efficient inventory management and spot guest trends across locations to react quickly to new food ideas or services.
  1. Personalized guest experiences: The new frontier of digital transformation is inventing new ways to deliver a highly-personalized guest experience. Restaurateurs recognize that as the gap between automating services versus human interaction to produce a more effective personalized experience shrinks, new ways to services guests emerge. Restaurants have to become more guest-focused in order to digitally transform the core of their business processes in order to become more personalized in their service of guests. When technology is designed to account for the guest experience, it benefits the guests as well as the restaurateurs by improving operational functions like staff planning and inventory management. It is crucial that restaurants utilize the advantages provided by new technology advancements in mobile, cloud and AI to reinvent and redefine individual tastes and personal preferences for each guest. For example, a well thought out marketing plan personalized to new guest journeys can be created in order to send out timely localized, relevant offers or rewards at the point of reservation decision. Further enticing a guest to select your locale over another.
  1. AR is the new reality: The augmented and virtual reality market is expected to reach a market size of $215 billion by 2021. Augmented reality allows overlay of digital content over the real world engaging the guests more quickly in a new and exciting way. Augmented reality can alter the physical world of dining spaces and the use of rich content like videos or engaging images can be integrated into menu cards to create personalized richer customer experiences.  AR powered digital experiences also enhances the transparency level. For example, one of the leading restaurants created a menu app leveraging AR technologies to allow guests to view their options in 3D before ordering from the menu. Another restaurant created interactive outdoor ads in 3D where customers can view the menu, special offers, and order with a quick scan of their smartphone. These are just some of the futuristic ideas reimagining the dining experience.
  1. Everything that can be automated has to be automated: Automation in restaurants can improve CX and restaurant operations in boundless ways. The advancements in machine learning, big data analytics, and AI are triggering a new wave of automation possibilities creating consistent, repeatable and scalable processes ensuring both speed and quality of services. Quick service and fast casual restaurants can use robotics and process automation to reduce labor costs, improve table turnover time, increase guest engagement, and increase overall restaurant revenues.

In the digital age, it is critical that quick service and fast casual restaurants advance along with the changes in technologies. Leveraging new behavior norms created by digital devices or platforms is key to staying relevant and providing expected services. We at Photon have partnered with leading Fortune 500 restaurants to transform their digital CX and help them adapt guests’ shifting expectations, transform system-wide operations, and platforms to be more nimble, and cost-efficient.

Connect with Photon to learn more about our experiences in the restaurant industry and how we can help you digitally transform your restaurant brand.

"Thinking mobile-first and cloud-first is the way forward towards a more engaged and connected digital world."

Mukund Balasubramanian


Mukund Balasubramanian

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