August 26th, 2019

AI Technology Driving Efficiency in Fast Food

Posted in Consumer Trends, Restaurants, Technology

AI Technology shows strength in fast food testing

AI Technology in Restaurants

Photo courtesy of nrn.com

AI technology has been a conversation starter for some time now. In most cases, it’s in the format of “someday,” or “won’t it be crazy when…?”

Well it looks like that “when” is now. With impressive advances in AI technology over the last couple of years, companies have begun testing in different markets. One of the most popular platforms to test AI technology is currently in fast food restaurants.

Let’s look at how AI is changing the way we interact with food.

AI Technology in Food Service

As of now, four major players in the fast food arena (McDonald’s, Good Times, Chipotle, and Sonic) are either testing or in the process of implementing AI technology into their restaurants. But it’s not in the format one might expect.

AI Technology Fast Food

Photo courtesy of nrn.com

Instead of using the tech for cooking, packaging, or other labor-based skills, it’s being utilized in so-called “soft-skills,”¬†specifically order taking. This use is why this type of AI is dubbed “conversational AI.”

How is Conversational AI Being Used?

Good Times is focusing on using this technology in drive through windows. Its system, lovingly named “Holly,” has shown to be very adept at her job. In the six months of her operation, Holly has reduced customer wait time by seven seconds and her intuitive up-selling has shown a measurable increase in check averages.

AI Technology

Photo courtesy of hospitalitytech.com

Chipotle has found success with their intuitive telephone ordering technology while Sonic begins testing on their drive through system this year. McDonald’s, however, is showing an aggressive push with a slightly different tech. By the end of this year they will have increased the implementation of their AI driven interactive menu boards from 700 to 8,000 restaurants nationwide. The biggest difference in their system is that the boards are not voice operated, but intuitive based on the customers choices.

What’s the Benefit of AI Technology?

The push for AI is coming from the operators’ need to:

  1. Decrease labor turnover
  2. Increase speed of service
  3. Increase accuracy
  4. Allow employees to focus on food quality

By letting AI systems take over ordering and basic customer service functions, employees are freed up to focus on food quality and speed of service. As of now the companies claim that the tech will not replace human employees, instead, it will help them do their jobs better.

There are some additional benefits of AI. It does not get tired, or angry, or sick. Its accuracy is nearly flawless, and is always “friendly,” even when being yelled at.

Limitations

AI in Fast Food

Photo courtesy of engadget.com

At this point some kinks are still being worked out. It’s incredibly important that the technology can actually understand the customer. Therefore, the speech detection portion of the software is absolutely crucial. Regional dialects and accents can add other variables. The adaptive learning portion of the program is essential in overcoming these limitations.

Fail safes have been implemented to help in some of these categories. For example, at any point during a conversation a customer can ask Holly to speak with a “human” or “employee.” However, in the time of its activity only ~1% of customers have chosen to do so. This shows not only Holly’s effectiveness, but also the adaptability of Good Time’s customers to changing technology.

Hello Future World!

It’s official, the future is here. Conversational AI now holds real estate in our pockets, homes, and restaurants. It’s safe to say that the only direction is forward when it comes to AI tech., so we’d better be ready for the changes. What an exciting time to be alive!

Cheers!

 

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August 12th, 2019

BBQ is King on Summer Menus

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Restaurants

Between LTO’s and Menu Updates, BBQ Reigns

BBQ is King

Summer is in full swing and according to menus nationwide, BBQ is king!

Aside all the frozen cocktails, fruit-focused summer salads, and swimsuit friendly bites, you’ll find smoky barbecue options hitting the mark. This trend isn’t simply relegated to full-service restaurants, it’s occurring across all market segments. Just check the menus…

BBQ on Summer Menus

Fast Food

BBQ Trends

Photo courtesy of chikfila.com

It looks like the fast food segment is all for the push to savory BBQ flavors. Chick-fil-A recently launched their Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Chicken Sandwich, while KFC has re-released their Smoky Mountain BBQ and Georgia Gold options. Across the board, burger staples like McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., and Jack in the Box are all featuring a seasonal BBQ option. Even Arby’s is on board with their Bourbon BBQ Sandwich selection.

Quick Service

BBQ Flavors

Photo courtesy of chewboom.com

QSR businesses are known for their trend forward ways and menu flexibility. It’s part of what makes them special. So, it’s no surprise to see BBQ options on these menus as well. Starbucks is taking their chance on a Honey BBQ Sriracha Chicken Sandwich, while Boston Market is going with a re-release of the¬†Bourbon Bacon¬†Rotisserie Chicken. MOD Pizza is blending pineapple with BBQ on their limited edition “Fred Pizza,” featuring Canadian bacon, roasted pineapple, red onion, and a sweet BBQ sauce swirl.

Full Service

BBQ on Menus

Photo courtesy of Chilis.com

Ruby Tuesdays, known for their epic salad bar, is upping their game with a Hickory Bourbon Bacon Sirloin. Chili’s has gone even further, pushing their BBQ options onto a new Smokehouse Combo menu, where you can mix and match choices of smoked brisket, cheesy bacon BBQ chicken, BBQ ribs, and smoked sausages. Outback Steakhouse has found legs in the BBQ trend with options like the Aussie Twisted Ribs and the BBQ Pork Porterhouse.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire!

And these flavor trends are hot! It’s no coincidence that BBQ is King on national menus. We saw massive growth with BBQ flavors last year, and 2019 doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. So, don’t fall behind, give the people what they want with unique new BBQ flavors and pairings.

Cheers!

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