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7 Ways Restaurant Franchises Can Use AI for a Competitive Edge

In today’s competitive franchise landscape, restaurants must use all the tools at their disposal to gain a leg up on the competition. While technology might not seem like a priority for businesses based on food and customer service, tech is the spine that supports all those customer-facing products and services. When you have the right tech – and know how to best leverage it – you’ll be the ones coming out ahead.


The 2024 Restaurant Technology Outlook, presented by Nation’s Restaurant News Intelligence, lays out the biggest challenges and opportunities facing restaurants today. As tech evolves, it’s easy to get caught up in the promise of more, but, as culinary pros know only too well, more of something isn’t always better. Today’s technology outlook is one of more cautious optimism, as franchises and other restaurants look for the solutions that best fit their unique needs, rather than simply hopping onto the latest trends.


One tech trend that’s meeting with mixed results among the restaurant industry? It’s the buzziest one of all: artificial intelligence.


AI in the Restaurant World

It may be making headlines, but AI is still a tentative subject for the restaurant industry. According to the 2024 Technology Outlook, 28% of respondents said that they are not currently using AI in their businesses and have no plans to in the future. 35%, however, said that they’re not currently using AI, but they would like to start. This leaves a little over a third of respondents who are already using AI for one or more elements of their business.


Which areas are seeing AI adoption? The survey found seven key spots:

  • Loyalty programs and/or targeted marketing campaigns (17% report using AI for this)
  • Sales and labor forecasting (13%)
  • Labor management/scheduling (12%)
  • Inventory management (11%)
  • Points of sale (11%)
  • Back-of-house/kitchen operations (10%)
  • Employee safety/food safety (8%)

In terms of growth or decline, the report found that the biggest positive change came in the “loyalty programs” category: just 11% of respondents cited it in the previous year’s survey. Other areas, like forecasting, operations, and labor management/scheduling, held steady or had just a couple points of change. The biggest decline came in the points of sale category, which slipped to 11% from 15% the year prior.


These areas represent key points for restaurant franchises looking to boost profitability, enhance customer loyalty, and achieve growth goals. Additionally, restaurants may find other uses for AI from a broader perspective, including recruiting and talent management purposes, unified franchise marketing, and similar applications. As with any other adoption of AI and related technologies, the key is finding ways to integrate the tech into your operational strategy in a way that solves an existing problem and allows your team to focus on doing what they do best. In the case of restaurants, that’s delivering exceptional food and service to keep customers coming back for more (and telling their friends)!


For more insights on the role of technology in today’s restaurant world, plus the biggest trends to keep an eye on, you can download the full report at:


When it comes to adopting new technology for your restaurant franchise, it’s important to have the right leadership in place to successfully drive change and map out the future of your franchise. Blue Rock Search is here to help, with tailored executive search solutions to find the best franchise leadership talent to lead your brand into the future. Contact us to learn more about how we can help!


About the Author

Nancy Estep-Critchett is a founding Partner of Blue Rock Search, with oversight of the Franchise Practice. She has 30 years of successful working experience as a business advisor and executive recruiter in the franchising space. Nancy has built solid relationships which have spanned decades with industry professionals and internationally recognized brands.


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