How AI is helping diners make smarter decisions

By Charli Tanner

AI has already started to change the way we live our lives, from creating recipes to writing restaurant reviews. While technology comes with its pros and cons, it looks like AI is here to stay.

This article will take a look at the ways in which AI can influence your customers’ decisions and how it could change the food business going forward.

When ChatGPT went public, it felt like there was a very sudden shift in the way we interact every day with machines. It didn’t take long before cooking influencers jumped on the bandwagon, creating recipes put together entirely by ChatGPT. AI-generated recipes soon trended on social media as people prompted the AI to create recipes from the food they had left in their fridge, based on song lyrics, and just about any other inspiration they could name, putting AI firmly in the foodie spotlight.

But how is AI influencing your restaurant customers and the decisions they’re making?

Personalized dining recommendations

In the post-pandemic world, takeout apps have skyrocketed in popularity, and AI ties in perfectly with this tech. AI-driven algorithms can analyze customers’ past orders, preferences, and dietary restrictions to offer personalized menu suggestions, for a more tailored and customized dining experience.

Alternatively, AI can be used to offer those with a more adventurous palate something new, fresh, and different. This can help you attract repeat customers, as they remember the elevated experience you provided.

Smart menu insights

AI technology allows restaurants to analyze customer feedback and dining trends, helping them optimize their menus with popular dishes and innovative offerings that cater to evolving tastes.

This can help you view trends both within and outside of your establishment, so you know when to change things up and, conversely, when to keep things the same. Real-time data has never looked this detailed, adding valuable insight for your menu, loyalty program, and more.

Seamless ordering

AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants facilitate quick and efficient order-taking, enabling customers to place their orders effortlessly and receive prompt responses to inquiries.

While this sounds like a great way to cut down on staff costs, it definitely depends on what kind of operation you’re running. An AI server would be the perfect solution for an upmarket restaurant, but it wouldn’t work at all in a diner environment where the regulars and waitstaff maintain important relationships over the years. However, these tools can be used to augment the exceptional service your staff already provides without missing a beat.

Intelligent waitlist management

 AI software can predict table turnover and waiting times, allowing restaurants to manage waitlists efficiently and provide accurate wait time estimates to customers. It can also help to ensure that there are an adequate number of staff on every shift, based on past data. With today’s labour shortage and minimum wage increases, labour management can make or break a restaurant’s profits, and this technology can help you get a handle on optimal staff scheduling.

Real-time dynamic pricing

Leveraging AI algorithms, restaurants can adjust menu prices based on factors like demand, time of day, and seasonal trends, offering competitive pricing and maximizing customer value.  This allows for data-driven decisions to be made, increasing the potential for profits and minimizing waste.

Enhanced allergen and dietary information

AI-powered systems can provide accurate and up-to-date allergen and dietary information for dishes, helping customers make informed choices that align with their needs and preferences.

This is a big one! Staff often forget the full list of ingredients in a dish and can be clueless as to the conditions that can lead to cross-contamination. Using AI in this way can help avoid any unpleasant scenarios or potential emergencies and show your guests that you take their dietary needs seriously.

Contactless dining solutions

Touchless technologies, such as digital menus and contactless payment options, offer customers a safe and hygienic dining experience in the post-pandemic era. This ensures customers are comfortable and don’t have to have close contact unless they choose to do so. It can also speed up the process, eliminating wait times that could deter customers from returning.

Smart table recommendations

AI can analyze customer behavior and preferences to suggest ideal seating arrangements, creating a comfortable and personalized ambiance for each dining party. It can also create heat maps that highlight where customers prefer to sit and encourage positive changes in sections that are not that popular. This gives restaurant owners greater insight into the potential of their establishment, how they can maximize their space, and the best way to design seating in the restaurant.

Customer feedback analysis

Algorithms can analyze customer feedback and sentiments to help restaurants identify areas for improvement and address concerns promptly, fostering a better overall dining experience. You can also use technology to respond to reviews, helping customer engagement and building your online brand.

Data-driven loyalty rewards programs

Just about every business is capitalizing on the potential of rewards programs, whether it means giving customers’ cash back, freebies, or access to special deals. With AI analytics, restaurants can track customer behavior and preferences to design personalized loyalty programs, rewarding customers with offers and incentives that resonate with their tastes and dining habits.

Building a balance

The integration of AI in restaurants brings both exciting possibilities and unique challenges as establishments seek to strike a delicate balance between the organic, human touch and the synthetic, AI-driven efficiencies.

On one hand, AI technologies offer immense potential to streamline restaurant operations and improve the customer experience. With AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants handling routine tasks and reservations, restaurant staff can focus on connecting with customers and creating memorable dining moments.

However, maintaining the right balance between the organic and the synthetic can be a delicate tightrope walk for restaurant owners. AI is so effective it can become easy to rely on it for tasks that require an awareness of nuance and human error. For instance, when a customer has a complaint, they should be directed toward a manager who can lend an ear and make them feel seen, heard, and understood at that moment rather than coming up against a faceless checklist of errors and omissions. Finding a way to optimize technology and human interaction is the key to restaurant success.

A last word

 AI is revolutionizing the restaurant industry by empowering customers to make smarter decisions and enjoy more tailored dining experiences.

It seems likely that AI will soon become a big part of even our smallest daily interactions. With this in mind, it’s important for people in all sectors of the restaurant industry to comprehend how this new technology could help both you and your customers have a more efficient, streamlined, and enjoyable restaurant experience.

Charli Tanner is a content champion for a variety of online publications. She often covers topics that cater to business owners and entrepreneurs with a strong focus on finance for startups, productivity, management, and a few other topics.