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May is nationalHamburgerA month, but let's face it, burgers are in demand every season. America is about everythingbeef. We are supposed to eatthey50 billion burgers a year!
Burgers may be a timeless classic when it comes to American cuisine, but that doesn't mean modern burger chains are stuck in the past. To keep pace with today's competitive, fast-food industry, burger brands must constantly evolve.
While this has always been true to some extent, it is especially true today. Betweencontinuous returnIn post-COVID normality and the recent AI boom, the entire restaurant industry is in constant flux. Customers have never been so unpredictable and there have never been so many food options or ways to order. Times are changing tremendously in the restaurant world and burger brands are making huge strides as a result.
Burger chains and restaurants of yesteryearthis was the placethrow birthday parties and after school events or just let the kids play football for a while. However, customers expecting such an experience in 2023 may get lost when they enter a local burger joint. The name of the restaurant game these days is performance, with many brands prioritizing function over entertainment.
Let's take a look at the five biggest changes you'll see in burger chains this year.
RELATED:8 burger chains that don't actually grill their burgers
AI bij z drive-thru
You can still expect a friendly voice to greet you on the way, but it may not be a human voice. Many burger chains have started implementing and testing AI in drive-thrus restaurants, with mixed results. McDonald's AI development stumbled upon morecomplaintskudos, but White Castle's "Julia" AI system is a big hit for the web.
While this is only at three White Castle locations so far, company executives say the technology, which is capable of taking and processing orders from customers, could quickly be rolled out to other locations.
"Julia just finished her night shift." most recently an employee of White Castlehe saidMichael Guinan, vice president of White Castle Services, "My God, he was following orders." Restaurants of all shapes and sizes are currently having a hard time finding crew members, and AI systems like Julia are helping to shift the workload of everyone.
"Let's call it what it is," Guinan added. “We are struggling to find enough manpower on the shop floor. Julia doesn't take anyone's job.
Wendy's this monthwas announcedan ambitious partnership with Google Cloud aimed at "revolutionizing the driving experience with artificial intelligence". Wendy's Fresh's new AI will debut next month in Columbus, Ohio, and will be able to talk to customers through motion, understand habits, place orders, and answer common questions.
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Smaller, digitally focused interiors
Due to the pandemic, consumers have changed a lotin the direction of deliveryand reception. Working from home due to the lockdown has prompted countless people to order meals online or via company/third party apps. Although dining rooms are reopening for business today, they just don't have the same traffic they had before the pandemic. For example, in 2022, great85%fast food orders were put up for sale.
Citizen brands are aware of this and believe that consumer preference for digital technologies is a lasting trend. Countless burger brands are opting for smaller, cramped locations that prioritize digital, delivery and mobile customers. Wendy's recently launched the "GlobalThe next generation“Restaurant design is perhaps the best example of this change in the entire industry.
The new Wendy's design includes a dedicated pick-up counter for delivery drivers only, an indoor take-out ordering area, a cooking-style kitchen layout and the latest next-generation technology. The first of these new locations, which can handle 400 times more digital orders than traditional Wendy's restaurants, will open this year in New Albany, Ohio.
“This means that teams at the checkout and at the receiving counter can easily move between desks throughout the day.”he saidDeepak Ajmani, director of US operations for Wendy's; “From the use of technology and automation to the location of the equipment, everything has been designed to reduce unnecessary labor costs and the number of steps or minutes needed for crew members to deliver Wendy's orders to our customers, while ensuring we create better returns for our franchisees. . "
So is McDonald'shugalso digital and minimalist design. The #1 burger chain in the world recently opened its first restaurant-free restaurant, focusing solely on delivery and takeout. Meanwhile, Shack Shack has quietly made digital ordering kiosks an integral part of its business model and unit design. burger brandhopeinstalling kiosks in every Shake Shack by the end of this year.
Robot behind the grill
Even if you manage to avoid automation when placing your order, chances are your meal will be prepared by a robot today. More and more burger chains are turning to robotic fins to make their units more efficient.
Founded over 100 years ago, White Castle has always been a pioneer in the fast food industry, and the chain continues that tradition this century by bringing robotics to its kitchens. The burger chain has announced a partnership withHateRoboticstheythree years ago and since then a model of the "Flippy" chip station has been installed in 10 White Castle locations. This is just the beginning. the latest model "Flippy 2" is set onEnter100 units of the White Castle
Flippy 2 is even more intuitive and automated than its predecessor, allowing for a seamless cooking process and an easier experience for crew members. In addition to turning burgers in the fryer station, Flippy 2 also features a convenient "AutoBin" system for smaller volumes or specialty menu items such as onion rings and chicken tenderloin. Importantly, this latest model can also handle more than twice as many food preparation tasks (filling carts, emptying carts, etc.) as the previous model. To be clear, Flippy 2 is much more than a cooker on autopilot. Thanks to the product recognition by artificial intelligence, Flippy 2 knows exactly what food it heals and cooks. In general, the model represents a closed system that is able to perform its role in the kitchen completely independently, without human intervention.
Burger chains on the west coastJack in the boxWCaliBurgerthey also started testing Flippy 2 models in selected locations.
Innovative new menu items
Of course, the most modern technology in the world cannot make up for inferior food. After all, the fast food industry is still food-centric, with burger chains constantly coming up with new menus to stay relevant.
Let's take McDonald's for example. Even the most successful burger brand never rests on its laurels. Last month, Golden Arches announced ambitious newsinitiativewith the goal of serving customers "the hottest, juiciest and tastiest burgers". Some of Mickey D's oldest and most famous burgers (Big Mac®, McDouble®, Classic Cheeseburger, Double Cheeseburger and Hamburger) are getting small but significant upgrades this year.
According to a McDonald's press release, the new burgers will feature softer buns baked in golden, perfectly melted cheese, juicier, caramelized flavor profiles that come from adding white onions to the burgers while they're still on the grill, and even spicier Big Mac Sauce. Speaking of the Big Mac and its coveted secret sauce, there's only Mickey D's for a limited time nowsellFor the first time, Big Mac sauce on the side in dip bowls (only available through the McDonald's app).
Mickey D's isn't the only burger chain thinking outside the box when it comes to menu items this year. White Castle recently completedSlide from 1921με Spooky Pepper Cheese.
Fancy something more exquisite? Shake the Shackwas releasedearlier this year, an entire menu of white truffles including the White Truffle Burger and White Truffle' Shroom Burger.
Fantastic ghost kitchens
They do not show any trend in the persistence of the pandemic. Haunted kitchens, fueled by third-party delivery apps and millions of hungry people stuck in their homes, have grown in popularity during the pandemic. Ghost kitchens have no real storefronts and only support delivery orders.
In 2020-2021, haunted kitchens seemed poised to become an important part of the future of food delivery. In response, many major fast food chains have announced partnerships with emerging ghost kitchen startups.
One of the first was Wendy's, which announced ambitious plans2021opening 700 haunted kitchens by 2025. Fast forward to last year, and the expected number has dropped significantly to100-150ghost kitchens instead.
Todd Penegor, CEO of Wendy's, recently had itThey sayin March 2023 on Haunted Kitchens: "We don't think delivery kitchens will be a big part of our development trajectory. We believe our efforts would be better spent expanding access to the Wendy's brand with a next-generation global design."
Meanwhile, burger chain BurgerFi was also involved in a 12-city ghost kitchen pilot program in the summer of 2022, but a company spokesperson confirmed to Nation's Restaurant News earlier this year that the project had ended.