- Evergreen Restaurant Group, an Outback Steakhouse franchisee, is testing machine learning technology from Presto at several restaurants to improve customer satisfaction, according to CNBC.
- The system includes lobby cameras that capture employees and customers and analyze their interactions, as well as track wait times and those who leave without being seated or greeted. Data from the system is sent to managers and employees in real time, before customers have the chance to leave a negative online review.
- The initial program will focus on the lobby, but could eventually monitor the dining room, kitchen and curbside pickup, Presto founder and CEO Rajat Suri told CNBC.
Outback's AI implementation underscores just how wide the technology's applications stretch. Domino's, for example, recently partnered with an AI company to scale up its business in the Malaysia and Singapore region, while Chipotle has rolled it out for phone orders. Chick-fil-A is using it to identify food safety issues, and McDonald's and Sonic have added AI to the drive-thru.
Other casual dining chains have also started to incorporate AI. TGI Fridays has implemented the technology specifically to boost its customers' experience — integrating AI into email, social media, online ordering and reservations. This integration has resulted in a 100% increase in online revenue growth and a 500% increase in social engagement, so it's no wonder Outback has a similar focus.
Despite TGI Fridays' case study, however, Outback is starting with just the lobby for now. This could perhaps be because it's more cost effective than a comprehensive AI rollout, or the company is gauging its effectiveness before making any further investments.
Outback may have to overcome some privacy concerns over its AI application, which includes recordings of customers' faces and interactions. Suri told CNBC that the system is secure and doesn't collect personally identifiable information. However, Outback will likely still have to handle uneasy customers who aren't used to this kind of technology. The system is similar to Amazon Go, which tracks customers' journeys through the store to enable them to leave without stopping at a cash register. As that concept continues to ramp up, with plans to eventually open 3,000 units, more customers will become used to this type of monitoring.
Customers are also likely to grow more comfortable with AI as it becomes more ubiquitous in the restaurant industry. McDonald's acquisitions of AI company Apprente and Dynamic Yield to improve personalized service at the drive-thru should expedite this process.