AWS for Industries

Revitalizing Customer Experience: Transforming the New Era of Hospitality

A highlight of my chosen profession is the opportunity to exchange experiences, perspectives, observations, and ideas with colleagues who are equally as passionate about the restaurant and food service industry. One such recent opportunity saw me join Joe Jensen, Vice President of the Internet of Things (IoT) Group and General Manager of Retail, Banking, Hospitality, and Education at Intel Corporation, and Jean Chick, Principal and US Restaurant and Food Service Leader from Deloitte. The topic of our conversation was “Revitalizing Customer Experience: Transforming the New Era of Retail and Hospitality,” highlights of which have been made available on LinkedIn.


Talking points around how restaurant operators are facing labor and supply chain challenges emerged. We each shared observations about how operators are using technology solutions including kiosks, automation, robotics, voice, computer vision (CV), and advanced analytics to respond. As I shared the Domino’s Pizza Enterprises example of using predictive analytics to successfully deliver pizzas in under 10 minutes, the concept of evolving customer-experience challenges emerged. We exchanged how critical it is to understand the expectations of customers within the regions you operate and to also visit other regions to learn where the world is heading. During our travels, collectively we observe that voice automated ordering has a positive reception from consumers, that consumers and brands desire to improve the industry’s sustainability efforts, and that we remain excited to use our organizations’ technologies to support and accelerate outcomes for the industry.

Moving beyond the confines of video editing, I desire to share some additional insights.


I shared a brief portion of the journey of Amazon/Amazon Web Services (AWS), including the creation of the Climate Pledge, a commitment to meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early in addition to being net-zero carbon by 2040 and sourced by 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. For customers, sustainability can also be a motivator for migration to the cloud, or a positive benefit. Data from 451 Research reveals that the infrastructure of AWS is 3.6 times more energy efficient than the average US enterprise’s private data center and that AWS performs the same task with an 88 percent lower carbon footprint.

  • At AWS re:Invent 2021, Drew Engelson, Director of Engineering for Starbucks, shared the concept of Total Carbon Dioxide (TCO2). Starbucks built their commerce and loyalty engines using an event-driven architecture and collaborated with the AWS Sustainability team to understand their AWS consumption data and reduce carbon emissions.
  • sweetgreen serves up freshly made salads and other sustainably grown foods. The company desired to bring data together from 31 separate sources to derive sustainability and ingredient production forecasts. Gerard Bartolome, Principal Data Engineer, shared how sweetgreen solved this using single-purpose, short-lived data clusters on AWS.
  • Recently the AWS Well-Architected Framework—which companies can use to understand the pros and cons of decisions they make while building systems on AWS—added a sustainability pillar to empower customers to evaluate their designs, architectures, and implementations to reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency.

Computer Vision (CV)

Regarding this emerging discipline that is being applied to the restaurant industry, I shared how capabilities for extracting information and insights from images and videos are being used.

  • Vistry: The company has taken a different approach to automating restaurant functions by building an artificial intelligence platform. Modules that include automated voice order taking, drive-thru optimization, automated curbside check-in, and predictive order make times use CV to measure and improve speed and quality of service.
  • McDonald’s: The company is partnering with the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research to fund innovative on-farm technologies to measure and improve chicken welfare. The six phase-one winners are using Amazon Rekognition, which offers pretrained and customizable CV capabilities to extract information and insights from images and videos, and Amazon Transcribe, which automatically converts speech to text, to improve the quality of life for farmers and birds.


For me, the most interesting topic, which the three of us are uniquely positioned to discuss, is the emerging concept of restaurant edge platforms (REP). For the sustainability, CV, and next-generation customer experiences of the future to make a business impact, inferences must occur inside the restaurant. As anyone in the business will tell you, periods of network disconnect will occur. It might come from extreme weather or local construction that severs the network. Mission-critical restaurant applications like Point Of Sale (POS), automated voice ordering at drive-thrus, and computer vision for order accuracy must continue to operate. This is a wholesale industry changeover from the current model of on-premises computing to an edge-plus-cloud model. We exchanged how customers have communicated that they value a lower total cost of ownership through operational and technical standardization. Decomposing the topic further, restaurant brands believe a REP can drive out costs in capital and operating expenses through the replacement of the current on-premises desktop-class servers with containers.

Hardware Edge

  • AWS Panorama is a machine learning appliance and software development kit that brings CV to on-premises cameras. Using this small appliance, restaurants can add CV to their existing fleet of cameras, process the images and video at the edge, and make predictions locally with high accuracy and low latency.
  • AWS Outposts servers provide local compute and networking services for restaurants with space and capacity constraints. They offer small form factors such as 1U and 2U servers, and they are delivered directly to the restaurant and self-installed or installed by a third-party vendor. AWS Outposts servers run native AWS services locally. These services include Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which offers secure and resizable compute capacity, Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS), a fully managed container orchestration service, and AWS IoT Greengrass, an open-source edge runtime and cloud service. Using this functionality, the restaurant brand can use the same AWS APIs, control plane, and tools that they are familiar with to manage servers across thousands of on-premises locations.

Software Edge

  • Amazon ECS Anywhere is a feature of Amazon ECS that helps companies easily run and manage container workloads on customer-managed infrastructure. Using Amazon ECS-A, restaurant brands can deploy, manage, and scale containerized applications with ease. The service works alongside the rest of the AWS environment to provide a secure and simple-to-use solution for running container workloads in the cloud and on any infrastructure, including on-premises.
  • Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS), a managed container service to run and scale Kubernetes applications in the cloud or on-premises, offers Amazon EKS Anywhere. Amazon EKS Anywhere lets customers create and operate Kubernetes clusters on customer-managed infrastructure, supported by AWS, including on their own on-premises infrastructure. Customers can use the Amazon EKS console to view all their Kubernetes clusters including cloud and on-premises deployments.

See more industry insights on the AWS Travel and Hospitality blog.

Steven M. Elinson

Steven M. Elinson

Steven M. Elinson is the head of worldwide restaurants and food service, the global industry practice for Amazon Web Services (AWS), with a charter to support customers as they accelerate cloud adoption. As a trusted adviser, Steven uses his broad knowledge and 32 years of experience to drive guest experiences and to increase operational efficiency.