Milan-based foodservice trade show, Host, is emphasising the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on catering equipment and operations.
The show feels the trend accelerated thanks to lockdown, with reliance on devices and apps related to the Internet of Things, from local restaurant menus to analysing big data to foresee diners’ orders.
A spokesperson for the event stated: “Nowadays the challenge is to understand how AI can respond to the needs of the new normal. What was once a fantasy has now become a reality. In other words the future is already here and there is an even more urgent demand for AI in industries that in the last few months have relied on it to provide solutions to the various problems that arose during lockdown at a global level.”
Juan Bernardo Kferman, buyer food, beverage and supplies for Club Med – USA and Caribbean region said: “Touchless solutions involving AI are present in various fields of application. From coffee machines and menus, to room keys and even flushing a toilet. Added to this are a series of apps and automation systems available on any mobile phone. New ideas and new trends that will continue in the 4.0 era. Companies are devoting a lot of attention to innovation.”
While Brad Pierce, president of Restaurant Equipment World, and former president of FEDA – the US-based Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association, predicts that a greater attention will be paid to automation, reduction of manpower, and that this change will become a key factor in the purchasing decisions of the catering equipment sector: “This trend was already active before Covid due to economic reasons, but it has now speeded up as operators have a greater need to permanently reshape their operations with less manpower and more social distancing measures.
“There is a continuous evolution in our industry: from the production of protective barriers, to partners offering to operators the supply of disinfectant articles, up to technological innovations such as integrated watches with temperature control for employees and registration for compliance purposes. This type of device has yet to be widespread, but I believe that it will become much more common in the coming weeks.”
Andrew Rigie, director of the New York Hospitality Alliance, agrees: “The restaurant industry in New York City has been devastated by the coronavirus. When we reopen and recover, we will see emerging trends ranging from the further adoption of mobile payments and digital menus to a range of activities to be done without contact.
“We will see streets and squares being closed to the traffic in order to allow restaurants to serve more customers in outdoor spaces to compensate for the reductions of indoor space and we will see a growing pressure on the government to implement policies in support of the catering sector.”
Coffee machine manufacturer Gruppo Cimbali now believes that AI is essential for the whole industry. The firm’s chief technology and innovation officer Maurizio Tursini said: “AI is on the agenda of all companies, with a focus not just on the technology as such, but also on the extent to which it can generate value and wellbeing for companies and, hence, for the market.
“It is necessary to make use of, develop or implement a technology that can render the experience unique rather than allowing it merely to be perceived as an ‘add-on’ to existing systems, as it is now becoming an integral part of them. So AI is a solution which, on one hand attracts users by offering them an excellent service tailored to their needs, and on the other enables manufacturers to optimize the performance of the machines and systems generally. The challenge now is to see how AI can respond to the new needs that are emerging in this period of global emergency.”
During the lockdown, Rational Italia ran a series of webinars aimed at those interested in finding out more about its new line of professional ovens, increasingly geared towards the development of smart cooking solutions that learn from and adapt to the requirements of the chef.
Federica Padrin, head of marketing at Rational Italia, reported: “We are satisfied with how the webinars are going and the positive feedback from participants. There is clearly a great deal of interest in this kind of online activity, and that stimulates us to go on with the program and extend it over the coming weeks.”
Host itself is increasingly employing digital technology in its host venue, the Fiera Milano. Through the use of multiple touch-points based on new technologies (IoT, data analytics, cloud, mobile apps), Fiera Milano is equipped with tools including: an infrastructure composed of 80 LED high resolution screens, adaptable to a variety of types of infotainment; a heatmap that will allow geolocation within the site; a map that tracks the flows and paths in the halls; and a new app with a system of wayfinding, fast track, parking and restaurant reservation.
Each edition of the host trade fair welcomes about 2,200 exhibitors from 55 countries and more than 200,000 visitors, 40% of them international. The next edition will be held at Fiera Milano on 22-26 October 2021.