iFood, a prominent technology company in the food industry, is leveraging the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to address the genuine challenges faced by its customers. Daily tasks like deciding what food to order, finding the best prices, or creating a complex shopping list at the supermarket can be daunting, but iFood aims to simplify these processes for its 75 million monthly users.
On Thursday, the 29th, iFood is introducing new tools that will enable customers to place orders via WhatsApp using text or voice commands. These requests will be processed by an AI tool powered by OpenAI’s generative AI, specifically ChatGPT, with data provided by iFood’s operations. Initially, this feature will be available for purchases from partner supermarkets starting in July, and the plan is to extend it to restaurants in August.
Essentially, iFood aims to bring the personalized service experience, typically provided by a favorite restaurant manager or a knowledgeable friend during shopping, into the digital realm. These new tools will be accessible within the iFood application and made available for iFood’s 330,000 partners across 1,700 cities, enabling them to implement the service in their own channels.
While AI has gained significant attention recently, particularly with the popularity of ChatGPT, iFood has been researching the technology since 2018 when it began exploring predictive models to combat payment fraud. Like many technology companies, iFood relies on intelligent systems to provide recommendations based on customer history and preferences. Currently, the company operates with 17 AI teams, comprising 120 models that generate a staggering 10 billion recommendations per month.
Fabrício Bloisi, CEO of iFood, emphasizes the company’s commitment to innovation and artificial intelligence, stating, “Innovation is in iFood’s DNA, and over the last five years, we have reinforced our investments in artificial intelligence. This contributes to all our services, such as improved customer recommendations, marketing segmentation, routes, and delivery time.”
This latest development is seen as a significant milestone by the CEO, marking the next phase of iFood’s AI journey. The tool designed for retailers, named Compr.AI, converts customer messages or voice recordings into comprehensive shopping lists. Customers can make requests such as “I’d like a low-calorie breakfast” or “Please provide ingredients for a stroganoff that serves five people.” The potential impact on businesses is evident from a successful trial conducted with a partner supermarket, Nei.mar, in Bragança Paulista, São Paulo. Implementing iFood’s ChatBot solution on their WhatsApp channel, Nei.mar experienced a more than threefold increase in delivery volume.
iFood anticipates a future where it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish AI projects from other aspects of its operations. Flávio Stecca, the technology director, envisions AI as an organic and natural part of the company’s culture. With 5,000 employees, including 2,200 dedicated to technology, iFood dissolved its AI department in 2020, integrating AI techniques seamlessly into their systems. Stecca explains, “Deep down, these are advanced techniques that improve our systems. They are as natural as the use of data.”
As iFood processes up to 400,000 orders per hour during peak times, the utilization of AI will prove invaluable. The company is exploring additional features such as facilitating menu updates for partners and enhancing customer support by leveraging AI to respond to inquiries and complaints. Improving the daily routines of the 500,000 couriers is also a top priority, with iFood already providing AI tips through courier-focused networks.
“We have a mission to lead this process and benefit the entire ecosystem,” affirms Stecca. For iFood’s 40 million customers, the ease and convenience brought about by AI are paramount, and iFood aims to deliver precisely that.