The food and beverage (F&B) industry is rapidly embracing artificial intelligence (AI) to improve efficiency, increase profitability, and enhance customer experience.
SwissCognitive Guest Blogger: Nicolas Maréchal, AI Consultant – “Three AI Trends in the F&B Industry (2023)”
1. AI-powered chatbots
Chatbots can simulate conversations with human users and are being used by restaurants and food retailers to provide quick and accurate responses to customers. Leveraging Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies, chatbots can understand a customer’s inquiry in multiple languages and immediately reply with the relevant information, making communication more efficient and accurate.
Amongst others, chatbots can take and process orders, support the booking process, answer specific questions about menu items (such as allergens, sources, etc.) or provide information about special deals and promotions. They can also be combined with recommender systems (intelligent systems based on user preferences) to create personalized offers to retain clients and consolidate loyalty.
With the recent rise of LLMs (Large Language Models), we can expect many more breakthroughs in this field. For example, considering the topic of automatic recipe generation and menu creation, chatbots can suggest ingredient combinations and flavor profiles that are likely to be well-received by customers. This supports chefs to create new relevant and exciting dishes while meeting the dietary requirements of different customers and providing nutritional information.
In conclusion, chatbots save customers time and contribute to improving their overall experience with the brand, in addition to increasing efficiency.
2. Cameras as sensors (Computer Vision)
One of the main sub-fields of Artificial Intelligence is known as Computer Vision. It basically refers to the processing, analysis, and understanding of digital images. Based on this technology, major use cases have emerged around the images and videos recorded by (surveillance) cameras.
For example, AI can detect visitors entering and leaving a restaurant to analyze occupancy over time (people counting applications), enabling managers to plan staff based on actual demand. It can also monitor important safety measures (such as hand washing, surface cleaning, gloves detection, mask detection, etc.), to avoid cross-contamination or improper food handling, and assist the workforce in improving overall food safety.
AI-powered cameras can also be used to identify any areas where staff need further training and even to detect and prevent theft. Trained to recognize specific products and packaging, AI models can for example send a real-time alert if any unauthorized items are removed from the kitchen.
However, one important consideration with this kind of model is the risk of privacy violations, depending on where the surveillance cameras are installed and located and what is recorded. These types of projects should be implemented in accordance with national policies and data privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), The EU Artificial Intelligence Act (EU AI Act), and more.
3. AI-driven Robots, Automation, and Smart Kitchen
AI technologies also drive disruption in food production departments, enabling chefs to automatize non-critical and time-consuming tasks. AI Robots or “Robot chefs” (a mix of AI, Robotics, and Computer Vision) are already able to handle some entire cooking procedures end-to-end. This can include monitoring the cooking process or automatizing equipment such as ovens or cleaning vacuums, simply requiring a push of a button or voice activation.
The fundamental concept around Smart Kitchens concerns the transformation of select kitchen appliances into “sensors” and their integration with Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. This process facilitates the smooth interconnection of these devices, enabling the collection and analysis of real-time data. Smart Kitchen can ingest and process data from these interconnected appliances and subsequently provide prescriptive or predictive alerts and insights to users. This dynamic integration of technology empowers restaurants and individuals to optimize their cooking experiences, enhance efficiency, and make informed decisions. Tailored for individuals, we observe a rising demand for this type of device, such as Smart Fridge, making the cooking experience smarter and simpler.
As Artificial Intelligence (AI) brings obvious benefits to the F&B sector, it is also important to underline the potential drawbacks that it can have on humans. In fact, AI could lead to reducing the demand for human labor, with a significant impact on the workforce needs in the industry. However, with the appropriate planning and management, restaurants and food retailers can adopt AI without necessarily negatively affecting jobs but rather helping to improve the industry overall.
The F&B industry is projected to skyrocket to a staggering USD 35.42 billion valuation by 2028, and embracing AI as well as aligning with expert partners becomes not just a choice but an imperative. By seizing this transformative technology, players can unlock unparalleled growth and secure their position in this increasingly fiercely competitive landscape.
If you are interested in AI trends and use cases applied to the Security sector, check out this article from SwissCognitive.
About the Author:
Nicolas Maréchal is an AI Consultant at Artificialy SA, a Swiss company specializing in Artificial Intelligence. From consultancy, all the way to custom turn-key AI solutions, Artificialy SA delivers value to clients’ processes, products, data, and decisions. Nicolas is also Visiting Lecturer at EHL Hospitality Business School and teaches Python Programming.