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Cooking Up Value

How the Internet of Things can improve commercial kitchen performance.



Much has been written about how the Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly transforming manufacturing and other asset-heavy industries. But the IoT can be just as important to the food service industry. Recent Accenture research and client work have uncovered many ways the IoT can benefit companies that operate a commercial kitchen—whether it’s a standalone full-service restaurant, a restaurant chain, a commissary or catering business, or a retail restaurant with a prepared-foods section.

Restaurants and the IoT’s Promise

To illustrate the promise the IoT holds for the commercial kitchen, let’s look at how it could help the popular and fast-growing restaurant sector, specifically the quick service (QSR) and fast casual segments. As consumer demands and tastes change, the market share of these establishments is rapidly expanding.

One of the biggest challenges is managing operational costs. QSR chains face a constant struggle to control a wide range of cost centers—including those related to food and material purchases, food preparation, food waste, energy, and labor. Left unchecked, these can erode the operator’s already thin margins.

A restaurant manager’s most important challenge is ensuring all the food served is safe.

Key elements of the connected commercial kitchen

By implementing IoT technology in its restaurants’ kitchens, an operator can take major strides toward addressing these other vexing operational challenges. At a high level, the IoT can automate and standardize several key restaurant processes, as well as provide far greater visibility into restaurants’ operations—especially, the condition and status of kitchen equipment.

Key elements of the IoT-enabled kitchen are:

  • Alerts when there are temperature changes that could affect product quality

  • Anticipate equipment failures before they happen so maintenance can be scheduled with the least disruption

  • Increased customer satisfaction and retention via personalized digital services

  • Complete visibility into daily operations across multiple locations, data collected any time on any device

  • Automate time consuming daily tasks

  • Real-time information for faster business decisions

A connected commercial kitchen has four elements: Sensors, Gateway, Platform and Mobile App.

Moving forward with a strong IoT foundation

It’s clear that the IoT can dramatically improve several key dimensions of a kitchen’s operations.

These improvements include:

  • Enhanced food quality and compliance with food safety regulations

  • Lower energy cost and reduced food waster

  • Reduced total cost of ownership for key assets such as refrigeration units, ovens, and fryers

  • Lower labor costs and greater employee efficiency and productivity

While initial adoption of this solution will lead to better line of sight into day-to-day kitchen operations, more significant benefits will likely accrue over the longer term as kitchen operators add greater functionality and other offerings.

Eventually, enhancements to the solution could even unlock new ways to increase customer satisfaction and retention, as well as create new revenue streams, by offering personalized, value-added digital services.

IoT and commercial kitchens: The future is now

Internet of Things technology offers plenty of promise to improve commercial kitchen performance, and we expect the connected commercial kitchen to gain momentum soon—to the point at which the IoT will be seen as a “default” capability for commercial kitchens.

Commercial kitchen operators should start investigating how to best leverage the IoT in their operations via a proof of concept or pilot.

High-level steps in that effort include the following:

  • Identifying target use cases and capabilities to influence key business drivers

  • Selecting a representative sample of outlets to build a working proof of concept solution

  • Measuring actual benefits, refining the business case, and developing a plan to roll out a pilot program across a larger number of outlets