AI’s Restaurant Revolution

By: James Flippin · June 22, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

New Chef in Town

The culinary scene is getting a tech upgrade as major restaurant brands like McDonald’s (MCD) and Panera Bread (PNRA) test AI tools as a means of streamlining operations.

These tech implementations range from improving drive-thru efficiency to facilitating back-of-house procedures. Some even aim to predict what a consumer might order next.

Feast of the Future

In addition to Panera and Mickey D’s, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut owner Yum! Brands (YUM), Hardee’s parent CKE, Del Taco (JACK), and Chipotle (CMG) are all cheffing up AI-powered solutions. Del Taco is implementing voice-activated AI for drive-thru orders, while Chipotle is working to automate the process of cooking tortilla chips.

The industry-wide pivot toward incorporating AI is reminiscent of the rise of third-party delivery services five years ago. Just as delivery services became commonplace, AI could soon become an integral part of our dining experience. Whether speeding up drive-thrus or making the crunchiest chips, AI is on track to be a valuable team member in the restaurant industry.

Sweet & Sour

While some in the industry clearly have a sweet spot for AI, others have soured on it.

Proponents argue automation of routine tasks opens avenues for restaurant staff to engage more meaningfully with guests. Analysts also say the technology could ease workforce challenges, especially in the current tight hiring market.

However, the recipe for success includes winning over franchisees, and not all are on board with the high-tech shift. Also, as the technology remains in its early stages, language barriers, menu complexities, and a variety of other nuances may present hiccups AI isn’t quite ready to handle.

Nevertheless, with some of the biggest chains already on board, AI appears to be taking a bite of the food industry.

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