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No Human Interaction Needed! – How Technology Changes Staffing in the Hospitality Industry

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October’s Restaurant-Tech Meetup was all about the impact of technology on recruiting and employment. On the panel were Alice Cheng – Founder and CEO of Culinary Agents, Mike Goettig – Restaurant Employment Lawyer at Davis Wright Tremaine, Alex Askew – Founder of BCA Global and Glamis Haro, Senior Business Advisor at Columbia Business School. Innovative NYC startups and tech-savvy restaurateurs came together to discuss how startups transform hiring processes and explore whether technology will conclude the chapter on human interaction in restaurants.

From recruiting ads, to the selection process, to the actual management of workers – digital tools offer various new opportunities for staffing. Culinary Agents is one of these tools. Often called the LinkedIn of the hospitality space, the company uses an effective matching process which offers opportunities to talent and businesses.

Back in the day the only options were Craigslist or a recruiter” said Founder Alice Cheng. “[But] maybe a small business owner [couldn’t] afford to pay a recruiter […] and so, you just kept posting on Craigslist or another tool that puts your job on a list somewhere and if you’re in a big city like New York after 15 minutes you’re on the fifth page already.Culinary Agents has transformed this process – instead of going through a myriad of applications, the startup allows restaurants to quickly find experienced new employees. And successfully so – the platform has more than 300,000 international users and supports around 17 thousand hospitality firms across the US.

However, as panelist Mike Goettig said, it would be “remiss” to not mention the fact that technology might strongly reduce the need to find qualified staff. He brought up an extreme example: The restaurant chain Eatsa – An almost fully automated fast-food chain, which offers its customers freshly prepared quinoa bowls. Unlike other restaurant chains however, customers don’t order with an employee but with an iPad. The food is then prepared by the kitchen staff and once done – handed over through a glass cubbie. No human interaction needed. Whilst Eatsa started out quite successfully, recent developments don’t look very promising: Only a few days ago the restaurant closed most of its locations, claiming it had expanded too quickly.

“People still aren’t quite to the point of wanting a completely automated dining experience” said Goettig. “On the other hand, the McDonalds stock hit a high when it announced that they would be introducing iPad ordering.” The success of the “automation-model” depends of course on the type of restaurant as well as related customer expectations. Consequently, automating processes is especially attractive to fast food chains, whose customers are looking to get their food as quickly as possible.

Despite their recent setback, Eatsa has announced they will focus on enabling other restaurants to use their platform. Looking at the current pace at which technology is expanding, it seems we might not be too far away from getting our food served by a non-human. “We’re not there yet but you can see it on the horizon.” said Goettig and closed our discussion.

The next NYC Restaurant-Tech Meetup will take place in November. Join us for a fun round of networking and exciting discussions on trends and developments in the hospitality tech space.

For updates – join our Meetup-Group, or follow NYC-based Andreas Wuerfel on Twitter.