The next time you are eating out, don’t be surprised if a friendly robot delivers your steak dinner. With labor being the primary challenge facing foodservice operators today, technology is rolling in to combat staff shortages.
Robot servers were one of the top trends highlighted during the annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) Trade Show held in May. Staff from NCBA, a contractor of the Beef Checkoff, attended the show in Chicago to learn about emerging foodservice trends that may impact the beef industry and to connect with restaurant owners, chefs and foodservice executives to make sure beef remains at the center of the plate.
With more than 1,700 exhibitors and attendees from all 50 states and 110 countries, the NRA Show is the largest annual gathering of foodservice professionals in the Western Hemisphere. It is designed for those seeking new and better ways to operate their restaurant establishments, grow their customer base, broaden their networks, and increase their success.
“Attending this show gives us perspective on how to promote beef to the foodservice industry in the future,” said Mark Johnson, director of supply chain engagement at NCBA. “Understanding restaurant trends and needs also helps us keep beef on menus.”
While robot delivery dogs and mechanical cooks grabbed the attention of show attendees, other hot topics including increasing menu prices, retaining employees and changing supply chain issues were also discussed during educational sessions. In addition, sustainability continued to be a topic of conversation for restaurants working to reduce their environmental impact.
Restauranteurs are looking at every aspect of their businesses to enhance sustainability efforts including reducing food waste and water consumption, using recyclable to-go containers and shortening their supply chain. Sourcing of ingredients also plays a role in sustainability and the pandemic shined a light on the impact ingredients have on the bottom line.
“During the pandemic restaurants pared down menus to reduce labor needs and save costs,” said Sarah Clymore, NCBA’s manager of manufacturer engagement. “Menu offerings are slowly returning; however, restaurants are creating diverse menu options by using fewer ingredients in unique ways.”
This need for “making more with less” enforces the importance of educating foodservice operators about the versatility of beef and how cuts can be used in numerous ways for various flavor profiles. NCBA, on behalf of the Beef Checkoff, has made great strides to incorporate beef on menus from fast food to fine dining, and everything in between.
According to Clymore it was clear that beef remains a popular protein at restaurants across the country. She noted that never-ending lines for beef samples wrapped around the show floor demonstrating the power of beef’s taste. Attendees and exhibitors alike were also excited about NCBA’s engagement during the show.
“Show attendees were eager to talk with NCBA to discuss potential partnership opportunities to promote beef,” said Clymore. “It was apparent that NCBA is the trusted leader in the beef industry and is well known and respected among foodservice professionals.”