How Artificial Intelligence-Driven Menus Can Help Your Restaurant

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Photo Courtesy eatOS

Technology is advancing faster than ever, and it’s up to restaurants to adapt to a more tech-savvy audience. AI-powered menus drive higher sales, appeal to a broader audience, and can be a safe contactless alternative during and after the pandemic.

What are AI-Driven Menus?

Digital and touch screen menus have been around for years, but artificial intelligence-enabled menus take digital screens a step further. Similar to how digital assistants on your phone (like Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa) remember your preferences and settings, artificial intelligent menus also remember customer preferences, past orders, loyalty information, and much more all for the sake of smooth, seamless customer experience.

With access to a customer’s vital information, AI menus can also make suggestions that the customer might like, such as upselling a popular side or suggesting their most frequent order, which drives up revenue. Studies have shown that computer’s suggestions are more frequently accepted than humans’ recommendations because they are perceived to be less intrusive, less biased, and customers often feel less pressured.

When AI-enabled menus are run on advanced hardware like POS systems or self-service kiosks, they can often use features similar to smartphones, such as voice commands for a genuinely contactless ordering experience.

Perhaps the most appropriate use of AI-powered menus is the rise of online and mobile ordering. Menu suggestions can be made to prospective customers right on their mobile devices as they order for delivery or takeout.

How AI-Driven Menus Increase Sales

When most people see the term artificial intelligence, they think of highly advanced technology that only the most prominent businesses can afford. The truth is the more technology advances, the cheaper it becomes.

Think of GPS or advanced safety features in cars. Decades ago, only top-of-the-line vehicles costing over $100,000 offered screens in cars, let alone radar safety features. Today, features like back-up cameras, radar, and auto-stop functions are found on even the cheapest Kias and Hondas.

Similarly, artificial intelligence can be integrated seamlessly into any restaurant no matter how small for reasonable, if not minimal, prices.

AI takes away all the friction that can exist that may dissuade customers from ordering. Poor user experience may make a customer choose another restaurant, but the convenience of ordering their favorite foods with minimal effort will drive up sales. AI can remember preferences and build custom menus to make ordering as easy as logging into an app and pressing one or two buttons. When a user experience takes away all impediments to the end goal of buying what they want, customers are far more likely to buy more.

Even upselling has become smarter compared to old scripts cashiers had to follow.

Artificial intelligence-enabled menus can remember preferences such as if a customer usually orders a salad with their grilled salmon or mashed potatoes with their steak and may even remember how the customer prefers their steak cooked. Drinks or ideal pairings may also be suggested based on customer preference or a database.

AI and cloud-enabled devices can use available data about the user and the environment to make insightful suggestions such as weather-based suggestions.

A cold or rainy day may make the AI suggest hot soup, a warm summer day may suggest ice cream or a range of specialty drinks or a variety of promotional offers based on region, holiday and time of day (breakfast or late night).

According to a study performed by McKinsey, “personalization can deliver five to eight times ROI on marketing spend, and lift sales by 10 percent or more.”

McDonald’s which has added thousands of AI-driven menus in-store as well as a significant digital upgrade believes this is a significant step in the future.

“We’re leveraging technology to improve and modernize the way we connect with customers,” CEO Steve Easterbrook told investors. “We’re confident about the road ahead.”

Why AI-Driven Menus are Safer

AI-enabled menus on advanced hardware can also provide a safer ordering process during health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC has approved self-service kiosks and mobile/online ordering to be the more reliable alternative to ordering in person due to fewer human interactions.

“Avoid using or sharing items such as menus Instead, use disposable or digital menus Use touchless payment options as much as possible,” stated the CDC in their Interim Guidance for Restaurants and Bars.

Many restaurants have already deployed self-service kiosks with strict cleaning guidelines as part of their pandemic reopening plans for safer operations.

Some national chains like Sonic and McDonald’s have experimented with the technology and began rolling out test units last year. This year, it is expected that many large national chains will be implementing the technology, and McDonald’s will be ordering tens of thousands of units for their franchisees.

Another benefit of bringing AI in-house is data management. By relying on third-party delivery platforms like Uber Eats and DoorDash, restaurants enable large corporations to harvest and sell user data from their communities. By taking ownership of your customer’s data directly, restaurants can ensure the data will be used ethically.

Technology Baby Steps

Many experts recommend integrating technology gradually. Trying to convert a business to a heavily digital company overnight may cause efficiency issues and result in wasted time, effort, and money. By slowly adding features, restaurants can figure out what they need and don’t need for optimal operations.

The most important step to integrating technology into a restaurant is, to begin with, upgrades that will provide the most immediate and tangible results.

POS systems are a great place to start, but the immediate need is to build out their digital infrastructure for many restaurants. Online and mobile ordering has become crucial to surviving during the pandemic. Many low-cost services feature a robust and customizable integration into existing new or existing websites as well as provide apps eliminating the reliance on third-party delivery apps and their outrageous commission fees.

Starting with online ordering also benefits from creating a database of customer preferences, sales data, and analytics. Data is one of the most valuable resources any business can have when building an advanced technology-focused business. Every insight into your community can lead to important decisions.

In many ways, AI-driven menus can be the first step that takes your restaurant from surviving to thriving.

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