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How AI is Revolutionizing Quickserve Restaurants: Virtual Cashiers, AI-Drive Thrus, and More!

The quick-serve restaurant industry is undergoing a technological revolution, with artificial intelligence (AI) playing a central role in streamlining operations and improving the customer experience. From virtual cashiers to AI-powered drive-thrus and delivery robots, the possibilities are endless. In this I uncover how quick-serve restaurants are leveraging AI to stay ahead of the curve and provide a better dining experience.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the quick-serve restaurant industry, from taking customer orders to improving operational efficiency. By reducing the need for human interaction, AI allows quick-serve restaurants to save time and money while improving the customer experience.

Delivery Robots AI

AI is also being used in the delivery process at quick-serve restaurants. For example, Domino’s has been testing delivery robots around Berlin, Germany, using AI-powered sensor data processing algorithms and some of the same technology used in self-driving cars. These robots feature cameras and sensors, allowing them to adjust their speed or come to a stop depending on what’s happening on the street.

This isn’t Domino’s first test leveraging autonomous deliveries. In 2017, the Michigan-based company used a self-driving Ford Fusion hybrid to deliver pizzas to randomly chosen customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And in 2013, Domino’s tested out pizza delivery via drone in the United Kingdom.

Food Waste Reduction

KFC Food Bank

AI is also being used to reduce food waste in quick-serve restaurants. Yum! Brands (parent company of KFC and Taco Bell) has implemented machine learning programs to predict how much food managers should order for their restaurants every week. By using data and analytics, Yum! Brands is able to cut down on waste and lower costs, making day-to-day operations for managers and team members easier.

In a remarkable effort to combat food waste, Yum China has harnessed the power of cutting-edge technology. They use artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, to bolster its sales forecasting accuracy and optimize inventory management. Given the myriad of fluctuating factors influencing store traffic, such as weather conditions, it’s not uncommon for stores to face unsold surplus. To address this, KFC introduced its pioneering Food Bank initiative in Shenzhen in September 2020, repurposing excess food by distributing it freely to underprivileged residents in the vicinity. As of September 2021, the trailblazing program has expanded its reach to over 100 KFC locations across 18 cities, underscoring Yum China’s commitment to sustainable business practices.

AI-Powered Drive-Thrus

Another area where AI is being leveraged is in drive-thru systems. Panera Bread, for example, has been testing AI-powered drive-thrus at two locations in upstate New York. Created by startup OpenCity, the AI bot introduces itself as “Tori” and even repeats orders back to customers to ensure accuracy. Similarly, Wingstop is testing conversational AI voice bots that take customer orders over the phone at select locations across multiple states. These “virtual ordering assistants” can speak English or Spanish, make recommendations based on orders, and even take multiple calls at once, improving the customer experience and freeing up human employees for other tasks.

Presto, a company that makes an AI-powered voice bot for numerous major chain drive-thrus, is integrating ChatGPT with their voice bots, allowing customers to place orders with a virtual AI rather than a human cashier. This technology has the potential to reduce wait times and improve accuracy, while also freeing up staff to focus on other tasks.

Conversation AI

Finally, AI is being used to improve customer service through conversation AI. Checkers Drive-in Restaurants, for example, was one of the first major fast food chains to implement AI for ordering, with close to 300 locations featuring voice AI. They have also announced a collaboration with Valyant AI to bring Valyant’s conversational AI platform “Holly” to franchisee locations across the country. Holly uses “deep neural networks” to converse with customers in an “unstructured” manner. While customers place orders, and her operating system continually refines itself based on new customer interactions.

The CDO TIMES Bottom Line

As quickserve restaurants continue to innovate, AI will play an increasingly important role in improving the customer experience and streamlining operations. By leveraging AI-powered virtual cashiers, drive-thrus, delivery robots, food waste reduction programs, and conversation AI, quickserve restaurants are setting the stage for a more efficient and enjoyable dining experience.

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Carsten Krause

As the CDO of The CDO TIMES I am dedicated delivering actionable insights to our readers, explore current and future trends that are relevant to leaders and organizations undertaking digital transformation efforts. Besides writing about these topics we also help organizations make sense of all of the puzzle pieces and deliver actionable roadmaps and capabilities to stay future proof leveraging technology. Contact us at: to get in touch.

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