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Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the restaurant industry at an exceptional rate. Bernard Marr, author of Artificial Intelligence in Practice, looks at the impact of AI innovation

Artificial intelligence (AI) is going well beyond the burger flip to transform restaurants from the front of the house to the back. And contrary to what you might initially believe, it’s just as important if not more for smaller establishments to use AI to their advantage. Here are just a few of the ways artificial intelligence is transforming restaurants and a few reasons why it’s time to embrace what technology can do.

Restaurant and food delivery apps

Halla I/O (intelligent ordering) is a machine-learning, personalized recommendation engine for restaurants, dishes, and groceries. The technology helps restaurants and diners understand food better to enhance the experience of eating.

Food delivery apps such as Uber Eats optimize delivery times thanks to insight provided by machine learning algorithms.

Voice-assistant enabled ordering

As the capabilities for voice assistants continue to grow it makes logical sense that restaurants should be able to accommodate orders from Amazon Echo or Google Home.

The point-of-sale (POS) system at restaurants must eventually be able to take voice orders from digital voice assistants, phones, texts, self-serve kiosks (where the machine recognizes you and inquires if you want your regular order), web orders from a chat screen as well as at the drive-thru (like Good Times has tested in one of its locations) and face-to-face orders at the counter.

AI technology can make sure these orders get placed in the queue just like any other order without needing a human to manually enter the orders into the system. Say2eat is one app that integrates with a restaurant’s POS system to allow customers to text orders in.

Enhance the customer experience

Since Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, are going to be a critical consumer demographic, restaurants are going to evolve to give them what they want and 78% of them wanted a desirable experience including a setting worthy of an Instagram photo. In research done by Swedish company Livit, who designed 13,000 restaurants in 43 countries, artificial intelligence was used to measure and track all kinds of metrics from what happened when the music got louder (inspired diners to purchase more unhealthy foods), customers’ movements, the influence of different plating options for food and even what days required different seating arrangements. In addition, restaurants can use artificial intelligence tools to more consistently engage with their guests and create a personalized guest experience.

Insights to propel business

Artificial intelligence provides restaurateurs the insight about emerging trends that they might otherwise miss. Algorithms can take data from a variety of sources and analyze it to find ways to boost profits, improve sales and provide a better customer experience.

Training via augmented reality (AR)

Companies can use augmented reality already to create virtual versions of physical locations for building planning purposes. In the future, restaurants might rely on augmented reality to train restaurant staff how to make everything on the menu.

Scheduling shifts

One challenging aspect to restaurant management is properly scheduling work shifts for servers and other staff. Artificial intelligence can increase the sophistication of restaurant schedules by helping management forecast labor needs, communicate and update schedules, and allow employees to swap shifts via the system.

Purchasing and inventory

AI can link inventory, purchasing and POS systems and automate the analysis to determine if ingredients are being used in the proper measurements, uncover theft or identify how to reduce waste.

How to transition to a data-driven restaurant

Regardless of the size of the restaurant, it’s time to embrace what technology can do instead of fearing it. Even companies with just one restaurant should look into what they can do to leverage artificial intelligence. Digital tools offer so many incredible advantages that restaurateurs that shy away from implementing some technology to help them provide better customer service and to increase profits will fall behind the competition.

Finding value in data

The industry is evolving and fast. It will only become more challenging to integrate artificial intelligence into operations as you get bigger. Even by starting small, you can use the data your restaurant already collects and apply the insights into the way your team works and the service and products you provide guests. And remember, you don’t need to be a data scientist to transform your business. Rely on the artificial intelligence tools and services that are available now and all that will be able in the future to find value in the data.

Your investment in artificial intelligence will continue to pay off as your business grows. The sooner you put it into action, the faster you will see its value. In my latest book ‘Artificial Intelligence in Practice’ I look in details how 50 companies have used AI to solve real-world problem. Among many others, the book features case studies of McDonald’s, Domino’s and Starbucks.

Bernard Marr