Have you ever had a shrimp and jam pizza? 

Sounds terrible, doesn’t it. However, this recipe was generated by artificial intelligence after MIT students trained it with hundreds of artisanal pizza recipes. A chef from Crush Pizza even prepared the pizza to surprisingly positive reviews.

Results from our third annual AI tracker show that Canadians know AI is going to have a profound impact on their lives. Among Canadian consumers, 41% believe it will impact customer service, 37% believe it will impact retail and making purchases, and 23% believe it will impact restaurants. In fact, just like Crush Pizza, many restaurants are already improving the guest experience by trialling and implementing tools that leverage AI throughout the customer experience cycle.

AI Improves the Ordering and Payment Experience

According to our research, nearly 30% of Canadians own or plan to buy a voice assistant, and 32% have used chatbots to get answers to questions. An even greater percentage, 54%, say they would feel comfortable if AI answered their customer service calls. The facts clearly show that people are comfortable using AI to interact with businesses.

This positive attitude has empowered restaurants to create more convenient ordering and payment processes for their customers. For example, Subway has created a Facebook ordering chatbot, both Chipotle and Starbucks allow customers to order via Amazon Alexa, and Wendy’s customers can order via Google Assistant. Our data show that nearly 20% of people want to pay for their orders without going through check-out lines and these AI tools make it possible. 

In-store experiences are also improving thanks to AI. Among many others, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, KFC, Taco Bell, Tim Hortons, and Dunkin’ use or plan to use Smart Kiosks which not only process orders and take payments, but also recommend products based on personal preferences or even the weather. Some restaurants, such as McDonald’s, are using AI to more accurately transcribe verbal drive-thru orders into text which is then fed into an integrated POS system for faster, more accurate processing.

Improving Operational Efficiencies with Analytics

About 63% of Canadians believe AI will improve the productivity and profitability of Canadian companies and these expectations have materialized for many restaurants. For instance, TGI Friday’s uses AI to better understand transactions and order-fulfillment as they happen thereby allowing managers and servers to speed up their interactions with guests and seemingly solve problems before they arise.

Similarly, Starbucks has revealed their ‘Deep Brew’ initiative which optimizes store operations by automating tasks such as personalizing offers, inventory, scheduling, and early identification of devices that need maintenance. Texas Roadhouse, CraftWorks, Applebees, Denny’s, Red Lobster, and Outback Steakhouse all use an AI tool called Presto’s to optimize staffing and personalize the guest experience.

Some companies take these operational efficiencies even further with robotic devices. CaliBurger uses Flippy, an AI robot from Miso Robotics, to perform repetitive physical tasks such as frying, grilling, and plating. And, given that 60% of people would be comfortable if AI recommended what to eat based on their personal medical history and goals, it isn’t too surprising to hear that Sushi Singularity uses a robot arm to select precise ingredients for sushi that is nutritionally customized for each customer’s health needs.

Next Steps

AI has been transforming the restaurant industry for more than a decade, and the speed of this transformation has drastically increased in the last couple of years. Whether the task is ordering, payments, fulfillment, service, or operations, disruptive leaders are taking full advantage of artificial intelligence to innovate and deliver best in class services throughout every stage of the customer journey. Are you a disruptive leader or disruptee?

The 2019 AI in Practice blog post series is based on Sklar Wilton & Associates 3rd annual AI tracker. In partnership with Canadian Viewpoint, 1008 adults in Canada, balanced to Statistics Canada demographics on age, gender, region, and French/English language, completed a 20-minute self-administered questionnaire in August 2019. As with all non-probability samples using access panels, margin of error cannot be calculated, and results are subject to both sampling and non-sampling error. Learn more from the 2018 AI tracker, and the 2017 AI tracker.