AI in Gastronomy: Key Lies in Balance between Technology and Authenticity

AI in Gastronomy:  Key Lies in Balance between Technology and Authenticity

Applying artificial intelligence in usual business functions, such as marketing, customer communication or HR, is widespread across various sectors including gastronomy. Which specific activities of this field, so closely associated with creativity and sensory perception, and to what depths can AI penetrate? The Červený Jelen restaurant has been using artificial intelligence since the beginning of last year and has already had a number of opportunities to see how AI is proving itself in gastronomic practice. Jiří Panuška, co-owner and Chief Experience Officer at Red Castle Hospitality Group, which operates the Červený Jelen (“Red Deer”) restaurant, answered our questions about his experience and perception of AI, AI’s benefits and advantages – specifically in the management of larger groups of guests typical for the meetings industry, and about its’ challenges and projections of future development.

• Since the beginning of 2023, you have been using the assistence of artificial intelligence in your kitchen. What tasks do you entrust to AI?

 AI in our kitchens performs a relatively wide range of tasks, including menu planning and optimization based on the availability and price of ingredients, customer traffic predictions for better ingredient reserves management, to automatizing processes such as monitoring temperature in refrigerators. Furthermore, AI helps with analyzing customer preferences for continuous menu improvements according to popular trends. AI systems can even help identify inefficiencies in processes and suggest improvements. Examples include recipes reviewing and optimization of the frequency of purchases.

 • One can only assume that employees have reacted to the adoption of AI with a wide range of different responses – but has their approach to AI changed in any way over the time, as they gain personal experience in working with it?

Employee reactions to the introduction of AI have been mixed, ranging from initial enthusiasm to skepticism. Over time, and with a growing understanding of how AI can make work easier and more efficient, concerns often transform into acceptance. Employees who see that AI makes routine tasks easier for them, thus giving them more space for creativity and interaction with customers, tend to start using the technology more and appreciate it better.

•  Have you received any feedback from customers? Have any of them noticed the new technology in the kitchen?

Customer feedback on the introduction of AI in the kitchen was generally neutral. But those customers who are interested in new technologies have appreciated the modern approach and often express curiosity about how exactly AI works and how it contributes to their dining experience.

 • Does AI help you in any specific way preparing menus for larger groups?

When preparing menus for larger groups, AI significantly helps with data analysis and menu design optimization. The system can work with individual preferences of customers in a group to ensure that the menu is suitable for all participants. AI also assists with logistics and planning to ensure that all meals are prepared and served on time and in the required quality.

 • Is there anything that the AI app you use cannot do, and you think it could potentially learn? If it was in your power, what would you teach her to make her contribution even greater?

 While AI excels at many technical and analytical tasks, it still struggles with some aspects, such as understanding and predicting the nuances of human behavior and preferences under less structured conditions. If I could, I would teach AI to better understand cultural and personal nuances in flavors, allowing for even more accurate personalization of dining experiences. Furthermore, I hope that the ability of AI to generate food images will continue to develop. It would help us both in communicating with customer and also in training the team.

 • Are you not concerned about a certain kind of uniformity sneaking into the world of gastronomy if artificial intelligence is applied by a wider range of local restaurants and they receive remarkably similar, if not identical, recommendations from it?

This is a legitimate concern. While AI can help standardizing certain processes and increase efficiency, it is important to maintain the uniqueness and character of each restaurant. Ideally, AI should be used as a tool that fosters creativity and innovation, not as means to uniformity. It's crucial to strike a balance between leveraging technology and maintaining the authenticity and originality that make any restaurant special.

The example of the Červený Jelen shows that if people in gastronomy learn to entrust routine tasks to technology effectively, they will gain more time for creative activities. Artificial intelligence may thus unexpectedly bring new discoveries in culinary art, although it cannot replace the taste or smell sensations, nor the art of combining cultural and historical contexts in gastronomy.

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