Back in the day fast food and other QSR operations were not exactly known as centers of cutting-edge technology. Now QSR operations are getting smart, so to speak, via artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
The trend is still in its early days — as is the general case with AI deployments in most areas of the digital economy — but evidence of the trend’s strength recently came from McDonald’s.
In a blog post, Dynamic Yield Chief Executive Liad Agmon said the company will play a critical role in transforming McDonald’s with digital technology so that it can improve customer service. With Dynamic Yield, for instance, McDonald’s will deploy its technology in its outdoor digital drive-through menu displays as well as other customer touchpoints, including at self-order kiosks and on McDonald’s app.
That’s hardly the only recent deployment, pending or real, of AI in the QSR space.
Domino’s has offered members of its Points for Pies rewards program a chance to earn points without having to buy a pizza from the chain. To receive the promotion, diners download the QSR’s app and sign up for its rewards program. They can then use a “newly embedded pizza identification feature to scan their pizza” and earn 10 points from the company. Customers then redeem 60 points for a medium two-topping pizza at the restaurant chain. To make the promotion possible, the company’s digital analytics team made a tool using artificial intelligence (AI) that can spot a pizza in a photo.
Indeed, AI promises to play a bigger role in the QSR world in the coming months and years, according to many observers — artificial intelligence is just one of various digital and mobile technologies that are flooding into that particular sector. “Customer-facing tech advancements — especially those powered by AI — have the potential to boost sales and delight customers,” reads a recent analysis from QSR Magazine.
It and other observers anticipate the AI will lead to significant advances in voice ordering, kiosks that recognize customers (much like a coffeehouse barista does), workforce scheduling, inventory, delivery and product recommendations, among other areas. AI could lead to more QSR customers ordering their own products via kiosks at tablets at tables, QSR Magazine says. “Studies have shown that self-order, whether at kiosks or at tables, encourages higher check averages and results in healthier sales,” it says. “What’s more, self-order technologies tend to reduce the repetitive, transactional demands on servers, freeing them to be friendly ambassadors for your brand. Expect to see more of these types of applications.”
Artificial intelligence also promises to play a major role in changing the drive-through experience via voice ordering — a potential trend that some close observers of the QSR industry view as having more potential use than ongoing drive-through update efforts centered around mobile ordering. “Restaurants don’t always know when to start preparing a drive-through order once it’s placed via mobile device,” reads an item from The Spoon that talked about the problems with mobile drive-through orders.
Its technology, deployed on Google Assistant and Alexa, enables hungry or thirsty consumers to ask their voice assistants to place food and beverage orders. Say a consumer wants to order something from his or her favorite coffee place. Assuming Bensen AI works with that QSR merchant, Bensen’s servers will process that request, know a consumer’s favorite order and confirm it with their consumer. And, if consumers have their credit card saved with Amazon or Google, the company can charge their credit cards with permission.
Fast food and other QSR operations are getting smarter, shedding reputations built over generations. Artificial intelligence seems very likely to play a role in those changes.