Robot cooks and virtual kitchens


Even before anyone had heard of the new coronavirus, restaurants were adopting new technologies to meet shifting consumer tastes, cut costs and deal with labor issues amid a highly competitive backdrop.

Now, technology is even more of a necessity as the industry reacts to the pandemic and hopes to recover from devastating job losses and business closures. “In an environment like this, any activity to generate incremental revenue can be a lifeline,” said Hudson Riehle, executive vice president at the National Restaurant Association.

Roughly 2.5 million restaurant-industry jobs have been lost nationally since March, when economic-closing measures began in earnest to slow the virus, he said. An estimated 100,000 eateries — about one in six overall — have closed their doors at least temporarily. Even with improvement in sight, the industry is forecast to suffer $240 billion in lost revenues this year, he added. Arizona hasn’t been spared, either. The state has lost about 1,000 restaurants this year, or about 10% of the total, said Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association.