Well over half of consumers “are amenable” to more artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced tech in their restaurant experience, according to a new survey from ad-tech firm AdTheorant.
The survey of over 2,000 U.S. adults, conducted this past September by The Harris Poll, looks at consumer sentiment and interaction with quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and fast-casual restaurants (FSRs) across a number of areas, AI among them.
Of those survey respondents, 71 percent said they would be “open to QSRs/FSRs incorporating AI into their business.” In particular, consumers would be most interested in AI if it could help drive down the cost of menu items (43 percent) and speed up the ordering process (42 percent).
As to the actual AI technologies that could do that, consumers are most interested in screens, according to the survey. Sixty-six percent said they were interested in using a touchscreen device (phone, kiosk, etc.) to order and nearly half of respondents, 42 percent, said they would like a voice-ordering system.
Restaurants are already trying to meet this demand. Self-service kiosks are becoming a regular fixture at QSRs and FSRs as chains revamp their store formats to be more delivery- and takeout-friendly. In the last few months alone, we’ve seen Shake Shack, Chopt, Sweetgreen, and Krispy Kreme, among many others, unveil new store formats that feature kiosk ordering. Meanwhile, KFC is reinventing the concept of the drive-thru to be more touchscreen-centric, and McDonald’s leads the pack in terms of AI in the restaurant with its 2019 acquisitions of AI company Dynamic Yield and and voice-tech startup Apprente.
More surprising was the lower percentage of survey respondents who said AI offering more personalized food recommendations was important. On of the goals for McDonald’s when it acquired Dynamic Yield this past March was to make menus more “Netflix-y.” In other words, menus could dynamically generate recommendations based on a number of factors (past orders, trending items) and in doing so offer more relevant recommendations and upsell items.
AdTheorant’s report, however, notes that just 22 percent of consumers said this would be an important driver of their adopting more AI tech during their restaurant experience.
Part of that may be a matter of exposure. McDonald’s aside, many chains are still just getting started when it comes to the AI-driven menu. Dunkin’ is said to be dabbling with it. Starbucks says AI is a key piece of its overall digital strategy moving forward and that it’s Deep Brew initiative, which will (among other things) power better menu recommendations will be a big part of the chain’s focus in 2020.