AI Driving Personalization Efforts at Restaurants; Dynamic Drive-Thru Menus Coming

AI is helping restaurants to personalize offerings for customers, especially those using mobile apps for ordering. (GETTY IMAGES)

By AI Trends Staff

AI is no longer an under-the-radar experiment in the restaurant business, with many chains making substantial investments and headway with AI apps that seek to advance customer personalization.

Taco Bell, for example, is incorporating AI into its mobile app used by five million customers, through a partnership with Certona, a personalization engine, according to a recent account in Forbes. The app relies on machine learning to present content to users based on their individual behavior. It can differentiate menu items and pricing based on geographic region.

“Instead of displaying generic, or static, product recommendations, we use Certona’s AI engine to determine what the best products are to display to a customer,” stated Derrick Chan, Taco Bell’s director of e-commerce. “So, for example, if it is a first-time user, we are mostly factoring in overall sales data, such as what four items best sell with the item currently being viewed.” Chan said.

He compared it to how Amazon provides product recommendations. “We’re just doing the same thing for food,” Chan stated.

Derrick Chan, Director of E-Commerce, Taco Bell

The technology will be tested when its capabilities are available to mobile-heavy customers. Chan is optimistic about its potential. “With that personalization and relevancy comes exposure to new menu offerings, customizations and opportunities for our fans to engage with the brand in a new and innovative way,” he stated.

Many Restaurants Moving to Adopt AI to Gain an Advantage

Other restaurants exploring the use of AI to better their business include: Chick-fil-A, which is using technology to help identify food safety issues; TGI Fridays, using it to try to increase volume on popular offerings, including alcohol; and McDonald’s, which acquired Dynamic Yield last year for $300 million.

The Israeli startup used personalization and decision logic to create a more personalized experience that could include new outdoor digital drive-thru menu displays that can change based on time, weather and trending menu items. McDonald’s tested the technology in several US restaurants in 2018; it plans to roll it out across the US and then expand into international markets. It plans to integrate the Dynamic Yield technology into all its digital customer experience touch points, including a mobile app.

Soon after, McDonald’s announced the acquisition of Appente, which uses AI to help understand voice commands.

Elsewhere, Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson recently called the company’s Deep Brew (AI) technology a “key part” of Starbucks’ future. The technology calculates a store’s inventory requirements and predicts how many baristas are needed behind the counter every day, according to an account in Restaurant Dive.

Also, Domino’s has reported on its AI efforts using Nvidia GPUs. The company uses the system to predict when an order will be ready, improving the accuracy rate to 95%.

Good Times Burger & Frozen Custard of Colorado has implemented Valyant AI at its drive-throughs. Valyant CEO Rob Carpenter told Restaurant Dive that an AI product can increase profitability 10% to 30% by increasing throughput, upselling, automating mundane tasks, and providing other labor savings.

Starbucks Partnering with Microsoft

Starbucks is partnering with Microsoft to use AI to enhance customer service and drive sales.

Starbucks chief technology officer Gerri Martin-Flickinger stated in an account in The Motley Fool, “As an engineering and technology organization, one of the areas we are incredibly excited to be pursuing is using data to continuously improve the experience for our customers and partners.”

Gerri Martin-Flickinger, CTO, Starbucks

When customers use the mobile app, the company collects data about preferences. Combined with a knowledge of Starbucks shops in an area, local popular drinks, the weather and other factors, the app can offer recommendations for products and pairings.

Starbucks also offers a mobile order-and-pay app, with which customers can order on their phones, prepay, and then pick up their orders from their local Starbucks shop. This is now the second most popular mobile-payment app behind Apple Pay based on user totals, reported the Motley Fool.

Starbucks has more than 14,000 US locations and approximately 30,000 stories worldwide. It’s most recent quarterly revenue was reported at $4.6 billion.

Starbucks Senior Vice President Jon Francis said, “We’re meeting our customers where they are… using machine learning and artificial intelligence to understand and anticipate their personal preferences. Machine learning also plays a role in how we think about store design, engage with our partners, optimize inventory and create barista schedules. This capability will eventually touch all facets of how we run our business.”

Read the source articles in Forbes,  Restaurant Dive and The Motley Fool.