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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - November 8th, 2019

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 take a closer look at AI implementations within chain restaurants, specifically those with AI systems that are already beginning to see measurable ROI, then discuss how new AR marketing in the restaurant industry could soon become the new normal.

The Chain Reaction of Chain Restaurants Embracing AI

The implementation of AI within chain restaurants is moving fast. The improvements are obvious, and ROI is already showing for early adapters. To understand how, let’s take a look at an article out of Restaurant Business Online, titled “Artificial Intelligence Takes Hold at U.S. Restaurants.”

“The chains’ investments promise to change how customers interact with restaurants not only over the phone but also inside the locations themselves,” writes reporter Jonathan Maze. “And there’s evidence it’s already having an impact on what customers order.”

Maze points to how McDonald’s locations that use smart menu displays have already seen an increase in average check size (Related: McDonald’s tech-focused CEO steps down), with others, such as KFC, Taco Bell and Dominos, seeing similar results with AI-led ordering, kiosk and display systems. Starbucks, perhaps the most tech-savvy beverage producer, has used their “Deep Brew” AI system to help manage ordering, hiring and other logistics, helping them to beat analyst estimates last quarter by allowing them grow their loyalty rewards membership program by a whopping 15% and increase sales by as much as 6% at AI-heavy locations.

“Over the past several years Starbucks has evolved into a tech company that sells coffee, similar to other retail giants going through digital transformation and investing heavily in the cloud,” writes Taylore Soper, GeekWire’s managing editor, in his article ‘How digital initiatives and artificial intelligence continue fueling innovation at Starbucks.’ “.... Expect more investment in technology from Starbucks, which this year announced a partnership with Microsoft; inked a deal with Brightloom; and put $100 million in Valor’s tech-focused Siren Ventures Fund.”

The trend of restaurants implementing AI tech is quickly becoming the norm. I wouldn’t be surprised to see restaurant chains resistant to AI, even those that have been staples in American culture for nearly a century, begin to fade (or get bought out by competitors) as they struggle to compete.

Panera Uses Augmented Reality to Broaden Transparency

While there has been an increase in AI use inside of chain restaurants, there has been a simultaneous increase outside through marketing and advertising. We’ve already noted many creative uses of AR in the Eye on AI series, particularly within the clothing, makeup, tourist and beverage industries. But AR use in chain restaurant marketing was a hot topic in this week’s news with Panera using AR to give customers the ability to visualize items on their menu (see video below).

“There’s useful information embedded into this experience,” writes reporter Steve Ellwanger, in the Medium article ‘Restaurants New Panera AR Ad Unit Lets Customers 'Play With' Their Food.’ “You can find out all the ingredients that are in [the food]. You can find out all the different nutritional values. That’s where this thing really becomes more purposeful and a value-add to our customers.”

While its perhaps too early to measure the effectiveness of this kind of advertising, the novelty of it alone is something that should increase exposure – not to mention AR’s ability to improve transparency through visualization. Expect restaurant marketing to continue to trend more into AI-based advertising as restaurants continue their transformation into tech companies that sell food.

Other news:


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