Friday, August 9, 2019

Chipotle Dials in on Digital

Back in the day everyone wondered which fast food chain was the fastest? Ah, but that was a simpler time. Today, the question is which fast food restaurant chain is the ‘smartest’ according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.
Chipotle is not letting McDonald’s become the only fresh fast food company to continue looking a customer ahead they are entering the artificial intelligence space with some ‘human-backed machine learning’ of their own.
Retail has evolved automated customer service phone systems and chat bots are common among pharmacy, utility, retail and e-commerce companies; even restaurants chains the ilk of Dunkin' and Domino’s Pizza have also deployed bot and voice-enabled ordering.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, is trying to keep a customer ahead by turning to more sophisticated versions of voice assistants to process orders. Nicole West, vice president of digital strategy and product at Chipotle stated “It’s human backed machine learning,”.
It looks as if it is working, as Chipotle reported blockbuster digital sales, as it quietly began testing AI-powered voice assistants for phone orders in early 2018. Kind’ a makes you think that it is working according to Johnson.
The 10-unit test has now grown 1,800 locations according to West said the 2,500-unit chain plans to expand the AI voice system to its remaining U.S. stores by the end of the year.
Here is an example: “In Orange, Calif., a customer dialing a local store is greeted by a female voice. Chipotle has yet to give her a name, West said. Her responses extend beyond standard dispassionate bot programming. She actively listens and makes suggestions when she thinks a customer might have omitted a topping on a bowl or burrito.
 A sample suggestion: “Would you like to add salsa or sour cream?”
With each transaction, she learns the idiosyncrasies of how people order. She might stumble if someone responds “combo” when requesting a mix of pinto and black beans. But, once she figures it out, her algorithm remembers. 
“The more orders that come through the system, the more she learns,” West said.
This is not a labor reduction move. West said it’s about “convenience for our customers” because the system allows them to order, pay and skip the line when grabbing their food from a pick-up shelf. Pay ahead is not available for manual phone orders. 
Automating phone orders also reduces the amount of time managers and employees spend on the phone”, according to West.  So, we ask; are you looking a customer ahead?
Looking for success clues of your own? Foodservice Solutions® specializes in outsourced food marketing and business development ideations. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities, technology, or a new menu product segment.  Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit Johnson,  or

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