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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - August 20th, 2021

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


This week, we’ll be looking at creative ways the fast food industry is using AI to solve pandemic-inspired problems, including McDonald’s’ use of Alexa to fill employee vacancies and the gradual adoption of driverless delivery vehicles to meet growing demands.


McDonald’s Uses Alexa to Overcome the “Great Resignation”

The pandemic left many fast food companies with a retention problem. Furloughed workers stayed at home. Hiring managers struggled to back-fill vacancies. Many workforces experienced extreme shortages, forcing them to look for newer and quicker ways to get up to speed.

According to the Forbes article “McDonald’s Finds New Ways To Attract Young Talent Through Amazon Alexa,” McDonald’s, in partnership with the conversational AI company Paradox, found a way to simplify the hiring process using voice assistants. Paradox specializes in helping enterprise companies fill hiring vacancies through voice assistants. Using Olivia, Paradox’s conversational AI assistant, McDonald’s has created pandemic-safe and simple candidate experiences by automating recruiting tasks using voice assistants.

“Now you are able to say, ‘Hey Alexa, help me find a job at McDonald's,’” says Josh Zywien, Chief Marketing Officer at Paradox. “On the other side, you’ll hear, ‘I am McDonald's personal hiring system, Olivia (which is the name of [Paradox’s] product).’ The system can help you find jobs and apply with your voice. Prior to using Paradox’s Olivia, it took 15 days for McDonald’s to fill a job. Through our partnership, we’ve reduced that to 2-3 days…”

Paradox is still in the early stages of development. Right now, they’re working on new ways to automate the application selection process and set up interviews directly through smart speaker devices. Eventually, they’ll be able to integrate with hiring manager calendars to set up interviews with qualified candidates automatically.

For jobs that require candidates to be screened in person, Olivia deals with the initial screening process. Qualified candidates are invited on-site, while the others don’t waste time with disappointing on-site visits they weren’t qualified for, to begin with. In that way, it’s a win-win for candidates and employers and gives candidates a more palatable job hunting experience that doesn’t require them to play dress-up and travel. I absolutely love the idea (I’m a sucker for smart speaker innovations) and will be interested to see how Paradox expands as they implement more functionality.

Driverless Delivery Company Nuro Expands Through Partnerships

Speaking of pandemic trends, fast food delivery exploded in a big way in 2020. Pizza delivery alone racked in a record-breaking $14B of revenue, but much of that profit was shared with delivery service companies they needed to partner with to meet the influx of demand. It seems every large restaurant chain is now delivery-ready via app, text, Alexa, or online in large part thanks to the services of GrubHub, DoorDash, and Postmates.

Frustrated with having to share customer data (which they’d spent billions on in the form of brand loyalty) and delivery profits with delivery service companies, large fast-food chains began looking for new ways to reclaim ownership of the delivery process. That led them to Nero, the autonomous delivery vehicle company that had developed an AI-guided driverless delivery vehicle called the R2 (you may have seen the R2 in the latest Domino’s commercial). Nero’s technology powers the R2. But it can also be used to power autonomous vehicles developed by fast-food companies.

According to the TechCrunch article “How Nuro became the robotic face of Domino’s,” pilot R2 programs have already been launched for companies like Dominos, Chipotle, Kroger, and others. While implementation hasn’t exactly taken off (the R2 has only been tested at one Domino's location to date), the partnerships Nero has closed in its short existence suggests large food chains are positioning for a much larger rollout.

“Nuro’s delivery AVs — aka bots — offer the tantalizing promise of safe, reliable and efficient delivery without sacrificing revenue and customer data to third-party platforms like Grubhub, DoorDash or Instacart,” writes TechCrunch contributor Mark Harris. “Alongside Nuro’s stated aim of driving the cost of delivery down to zero, it is little surprise that Nuro now finds itself in the enviable position of being able to pick and choose the partners it wants — and the less enviable position of having to choose which partner to prioritize.”

In time, I anticipate the larger fast-food brands will transition from delivery service companies to owning their own autonomous vehicle fleets powered by Nero. You can read more on how Domino’s is planning to do this through the link above.

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