AI + Machine Learning

Implementing AI For Sales In Restaurant

Explore the various ways implementing AI can make a difference in your front-of-house, back-of-house, and online ordering systems.
Trace Mannewitz

Being the best at anything generally means having a deep understanding of something. Patrick Mahomes deeply understands football; the Los Angeles Angels have a deep knowledge of losing (despite having two generational talents on their team). And you’re striving to have your restaurant be the best— serve the tastiest food, have the greatest atmosphere, and give the best service to your customers. You know the restaurant industry. 

But occasionally, something creates a splash so big, so different, that it’s difficult to understand. Artificial intelligence is looking to shake up the industry, and those ready to capitalize on it stand to gain the most. 

What Is AI

At its base level, AI is an algorithm meant to emulate the decision-making of humans (us) with essential knowledge and logic. While typical programs are set to take you from A to B, AI programs are meant to learn how to get from A to B. 

A recent, popular generative AI is Chat-GPT. While Chat-GPT has been the mascot of accessible artificial intelligence, AI has played a part in our cultural landscape for longer than you think. One of the earliest notable applications (and my favorite example as the owner of a pet who sheds) is the Roomba, which swept the nation in 2002. The early Roomba was very low-tech and operated on a 2-step algorithm of: 

  1. Drive in a direction until you hit something
  2. Turn and repeat step 1 

Impressive? Hardly. But it paved the path towards room mapping, employing multiple sensors and learning the shape of your rooms and how to most efficiently clean them. 

This is a very similar pattern for most progress in AI— a tool advances until it reaches a point where some self-governance is required to proceed. It’s led to remarkable improvement in many industries, and its growth rate is compounding year-over-year. What is a neat tool now seems to be one of the defining advances of the 21st century. However, as a restaurant owner, this leaves you with a significant question: 

Is AI A Good Fit For Me? 

While nearly every business can benefit from AI, the honest answer is, “It depends!” Like any other properly implemented tool, various AI programs can considerably boost your business, making back-of-house projects more efficient and increasing sales. However, this is all hinged on two words: properly implemented. 

There’s no shame in admitting that your restaurant isn’t ready for AI— it won’t make or break your business. But once you’re ready, one aspect makes AI invaluable.

AI’s biggest benefit is that it gives time back to you and your team. That time saved can be put towards furthering marketing efforts, keeping your menu updated and fresh, or even implementing changes reaped from AI’s data processing.  

How Can AI Benefit Me?

But enough speaking in sweeping generics! Let’s get down to some grounded, real-world applications of AI in the restaurant industry.  

Front-of-House Boost


McDonald’s & Domino’s have been two of the biggest brands exploring implementing AI in their business model. In recent years, McDonald’s has bought two AI-focused companies (intending to upgrade their drive-thru and kiosk ordering). Domino’s has been testing its voice-ordering assistant in various locations nationwide. 

In both cases, big names and brands believe that making the ordering process easier and more accessible will provide a significant boon for their business. 

Labor Costs

With AI ordering on the menu, labor will be reduced (or reallocated), allowing your restaurant to operate more efficiently. That’s not to say that all people will be replaced— human-to-human interaction will still be essential in engaging with your customers.

Back-of-House Benefits

Inventory Management

Back of house is where AI starts to make a big difference. AIs biggest advantage over people is it’s ability to process and calculate data at a much higher rate than most folks, so inventory management is a natural fit for the program. 

With AI, you can better forecast demand and inventory, reducing waste and decreasing cost. 

In House Copywriter

Writing snappy, engaging copy can be difficult no matter how easy I make it look. Does anyone in a restaurant have time for that? Not really! But using AI as a stand-in copywriter can help you generate content where you need it most. Examples include: 

  • Writing Menu Descriptions
  • Website Messages
  • Ad Copy

Leveraging Insights

Certain AI use cases can unearth unprecedented guest data which can give new life to your menu and to your marketing. Using this data can give you an edge in a competitive market, as well as increase your revenue from your repeat guests.

Increasing Online Orders

One of the coolest areas (and one we’re proudest of) where AI and machine learning can make a difference is within your online/app ordering. Our upsell feature, driven by machine learning for restaurants, analyzes what guests typically purchase together, refreshes every two weeks for seasonal preferences, and avoids replacement recommendations.

Implementing AI In Your Business

Implementing AI doesn’t need to be a scary notion— for those who are prepared, this will be a welcome easing of your workload. To pull a QSR Magazine quote from IBM Watson’s strategy lead Frederik Tunvall “Adoption of AI has been slow in the restaurant industry compared to other industries, but we believe that, starting this year, it’s going to explode. So if a brand in the restaurant space doesn’t adopt it, their competitors will.”