Quick-service restaurant chains like Wendy’s, IHOP, Chipotle, Sweetgreen, and more are embracing AI in both front- and back-of-house operations. The AI wave in dining establishments has introduced robot servers, bartenders, and kitchen assistants. Additionally, newer applications include voice bots for drive-thru orders and menu recommendation engines based on customers’ past preferences.
From the restaurant industry’s perspective, AI technologies serve as a means to address labor shortages and encourage larger orders. However, customer reactions to these AI-driven experiences can range from reducing human errors to causing frustration and annoyance.
Partnerships and Deployments:
- Wendy’s has partnered with Google Cloud to introduce voice automation at the drive-thru.
- IHOP is also collaborating with Google Cloud to provide personalized recommendations to online orderers.
- Chipotle is testing an automated system by Hyphen for toppings dispensing.
- Sweetgreen has acquired Spyce, a robotic food-prep company, to expedite salad preparation.
- White Castle is using SoundHound AI technology for automated drive-thru orders.
AI Beyond Customer Interaction:
While AI-driven technologies are visible to customers, the broader applications of AI occur behind the scenes. These include inventory management, worker scheduling, and ensuring food safety.
In the Words of Industry Leaders:
“We really believe that Google is positioned to be the preferred partner for foodservice customers,” says Amy Eschliman, Google’s managing director of Cloud retail industry solutions. Google’s recommendations engine, used by IHOP, has also been embraced by retailers like Macy’s.
A Balancing Act:
AI adoption in the restaurant industry aims to optimize various aspects of the dining experience. However, it’s essential to balance automation with the human touch, as AI is not always the practical solution for all situations. Mishaps can occur, and customers may react negatively to overly personalized experiences.
The Road Ahead:
Expect further automation and AI integration in quick-service restaurants, with the potential for challenges and adjustments in response to customer feedback.
The AI revolution in dining is poised to redefine the way we experience food service, promising convenience, efficiency, and personalized experiences. Yet, as with any technological leap, it also brings its unique set of challenges and growing pains. Quick-service restaurants and tech providers will need to navigate this path, learning from both successes and missteps, to shape the future of AI-driven dining experiences.