October 05, 2023

AI on the menu: Using AI in service scenarios

From online reservation management to digital menus to AI order takers, technology can help make dining out an efficiently pleasurable experience. 
Customer using phone to scan QR code at restaurant
Traditionally, dining room tasks—greeting (and seating) guests, taking and serving orders—are performed by people partly because it’s where customer interactions can make or break a dining experience but also because there haven’t been viable alternatives.  

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing that, handling tasks in ways that free employees to deliver even better customer service.  

How AI can help with customer service: 

AI can be used in various aspects of operations that are customer facing: 

Staff scheduling and management 

AI can help already time-stretched managers by providing them with trend data to inform staffing needs enabling them to schedule appropriately. It can also help with analyzing employee performance (attendance, compliments, covers, upsells, etc.) to identify areas for improvement and opportunities for recognition.  

Managing reservations and wait times 

AI-powered reservation systems are automating the entire process, from taking reservations to managing cancellations and modifications to updating waitlists. These systems can analyze historical data and predict future demand, allowing restaurants to optimize their seating capacity and improve table turnover. For example, OpenTable uses algorithms to suggest the best available tables and times based on customer preferences and restaurant availability. 

Personalized customer service 

AI can provide service staff with valuable insights about their guests. AI-powered customer relationship management (CRM) systems can analyze customer data, such as previous orders and preferences, to create personalized recommendations. For instance, a restaurant using AI can identify a returning customer, greet them by name and suggest specials based on their order history, personalizing the overall dining experience. It’s also possible to use these systems to identify what offers are the most effective. In fact, some of these systems can offer limited-time deals or incentives to regular customers to reward their loyalty.  

Efficient order management 

AI can assist service staff by automating the order management process. AI-powered chatbots can take orders directly from customers, eliminating the need for manual input. These chatbots can also provide real-time updates on order status, reducing wait times and improving communication between the kitchen and the service staff. Domino's Pizza, for example, uses AI to predict pizza orders based on patterns in the store’s order history (triggering pizza preprep that substantially shortens delivery times) and an AI-powered chatbot called "Dom" to take orders and answer customer queries. Wendy’s is using an AI-powered voice experience with a visual display in its drive-thru.  

Other aspects of AI to explore

There are many other aspects of restaurant operations where AI can be used. For instance, AI can be used for menu optimization, suggesting the most popular dishes or upselling items based on customer preferences. AI can also be used for sentiment analysis, analyzing customer feedback and reviews to identify areas of improvement and to respond in order to enhance the overall dining experience. 

AI is transforming many aspects of service in the restaurant industry, revolutionizing the way operations manage reservations, personalize customer service and fulfill orders. By leveraging AI, restaurants can enhance customer experience, improve operational efficiency, and ultimately serve up better results. 

Next up: AI for the back-office and kitchen in restaurants, from inventory management to kitchen automation. AI is revolutionizing the way restaurants operate behind the scenes.  


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