A mention of the word “technology” is usually associated with entertainment, phones, space travel and the like. It isn’t generally associated with brands like Chick-fil-A or McDonald’s. However, you probably should get used to it. A wave of creative adjustments and tech tweaks are making their way through restaurants to make the dining-out experience smoother, faster, and more fun.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) hasn’t been a stranger to our culture in the past decade, and it’s about to become even more familiar. In an article from cnbc.com published in March of this year, a new staff member named “Chippy” joined the Chipotle team to help season their tortilla chips. The company wanted to make their employees’ work more fun, less monotonous, and streamlined; thus, Chippy, the robotic arm from Miso Robotics, was born. Chippy makes the very popular side item the exact same way every time. Chippy is stationed in their Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California at the moment, with plans to roll out more Chippy’s throughout the country if all goes well. Chipotle also uses artificial intelligence on their website with Pepper, a concierge chatbot, and may be making progress with an automated delivery car in the future.
During COVID-19, restaurants suffered a tremendous amount. But for Chick-fil-A, the silver lining was their drive-thrus, accounting for over 8 million dollars in revenue for more than half the stores in the country, according to QSR Magazine. However, their popularity has recently made picking up food a little complicated. QSR Magazine wrote that the restaurant’s drive-thru system caused some problems last year, including zoning violations and major backups while waiting for food. To speed up the process of drive-thrus, Chick-fil-A has made an express drive-thru lane only for customers who have ordered ahead on their app. Their solution seems to be working; during testing, customers found their wait time to be less and enjoyed the experience of a separate lane where their food was already paid for and ready to go.
To further entice the app-using crowd, McDonald’s is introducing its virtual summer camp, Camp McDonald’s, on July 5. Loaded with weekly in-app performances, menu hacks, and merchandise, McDonald’s is only asks for a $1 per day admission fee, according to Restaurant Dive. When customers check the app, they will find a different offer each day, including a free McFlurry, or a free Happy Meal with purchase. They can unlock access to limited edition merchandise that they’ve dubbed a “Merch Drop,” collaborations according to Chewboom.com, like a front row seat to virtual musical performances featuring BIBI, Omar Apollo, and Kid Cudi.
In 2022 it shouldn’t be too much of a shock that the food industry uses technology to attract and maintain customers. It feels like second nature, as we’ve already gotten used to self-checkouts, contactless payments, QR codes, and even augmented reality menus. What makes a great restaurant these days has gone way beyond the food, it seems, to a broader sense of experience. Technology has helped to make a meal at a restaurant not only an experience, but an adventure.