Square Unveils Fourth-Annual Future of Commerce Report: 2024 Edition

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By Roseline Victoria Vijayakumar

Square recently hosted an exclusive online preview to unveil its fourth-annual Future of Commerce Report: 2024 Edition. Ming Tai Huh, head of Restaurants at Square, shared insights about restaurants moving out of the post-pandemic effect and projected optimism for the future. He stated that despite caution about inflation impacting consumer spending, a positive outlook remained for expansion and diversification, such as the introduction of meal kits, subscriptions, catering and merchandise.

“We’ve had a lot of great economic news in the past couple of months. Inflation for the most part has come down, if not fully on track to being resolved soon,” said Ara Kharazian, the Research and Data lead at Square.

Although the impact of inflation might be over, Kharazian added that there are still lingering effects impacting consumers, coupled with an increased posture towards saving money. He described this pullback as “a bit of a regression to normal.” As a countermeasure, he recommended restaurants implement creative measures, such as AI and other technologies, to get diners into the door in a way that’s scalable and relatively inexpensive.

During the preview, AI was projected to be a key growth lever for restaurants.

“For the average restaurant and small business, we’re going to see incorporation of AI and automation at a small level,” said Huh. “To help restaurants become more efficient, replacing repetitive tasks or tasks that take more time to be completed with automation would improve overall operation.”

Then, Huh elaborated on practical applications of AI in the industry, such as scheduling labour, improving communication, managing kitchen workflows and completing mundane writing tasks. He also shared examples of sellers utilizing AI to create job postings and improve product descriptions.

Additionally, Kharazian discussed how AI could help alleviate the ongoing labour shortage.

“The labour shortage is clearly still a chronic issue for restaurants in particular. Hiring is extremely difficult for a restaurant,” said Kharazian. “Relying on AI is worth trying to alleviate these issues, but it’s also tricky because this sector sells human interaction. The question is whether or not a consumer would then turn their nose at a restaurant who has integrated AI. Does that affect the restaurant experience? We found in our survey that consumers are generally open to the creative and effective use of AI technology if it’s going to improve the restaurant experience.”

AI can also be beneficial for customized recommendations and targeted promotions, which play a role in enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

However, Huh noted the ongoing importance of the human element in the hospitality industry despite new technologies. “Consumer behaviour has shifted. Experiential dining is an exciting sector, and it’s great to see the rising demand from customers who are looking to do interesting things combined with the food-and-beverage element.”

To access the report, click here.

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