In 2019, a bunch of restaurant chains started dabbling in artificial intelligence, leveraging the technology to enable voice ordering, ensure quality assurance, improve labor costs and more.
In May 2019, after three years in development, Domino’s Australia business added the “DOM Pizza Checker,” which uses AI to scan each pizza to confirm they measure up to quality standards. The chain collaborated with Dragontail Systems to create the platform, which improved quality scores by 15% in its first month alone.
Now, a full year later, we have a better idea of how effective this technology has been for the Domino’s Australia system. In a press release, Domino’s Group CEO and Managing Director Don Meij said this technology has provided customers with peace of mind, a particular advantage during the challenging COVID-19 environment, where food safety and hygiene is paramount.
Though having such a system in place during a pandemic is no doubt fortuitous, the impetus behind the launch back in 2019 was simple consistency. The technology is able to gauge this consistency through a smart scanner that sits above the cut bench and uses advanced machine learning, AI and sensors to check the quality of every pizza.
“If the pizza meets our high standards, it’s good to go and if it’s not made right, we’ll make it again,” a Domino’s Australia spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Since its launch, the DOM Pizza Checker has scanned more than 50 million pizzas.
Pizzas that don’t pass muster are donated to local community groups or homeless organizations, or they’re offered to customers as an add-on for having to wait for another pizza to be made. Local stores are encouraged to use their discretion when it comes to pizzas that require a remake.
The company’s spokesperson adds that there are currently no quick-service restaurants in the world that can “assure customers that their products have passed a quality check.”
Indeed, the No. 1 complaint Domino’s Australia receives is “my pizza doesn’t look like it should.” Because the chain is solving this specific issue with DOM, the spokesperson said the system has been well received by franchisees, employees and customers. Though that doesn’t answer the direct question of whether or not there is a strong return on investment, Domino’s and Dragontail Systems officially announced the continuation of their partnership this week, a strong vote of confidence.
This lends itself to a follow up: What is the potential for AI in the restaurant industry in general?
Dragontail CEO Ido Levanon said every restaurant has a unique and urgent pain point that the company works to solve with the most relevant AI technology.
“In Domino’s case, it was accuracy and quality of the food preparation for which our AI camera was the perfect solution,” Levanon said. “The consistency and quality of the food is the baseline for every meal delivered. If either of these are compromised, it leads to unsatisfied customers and fewer repeat visits.”
AI can be used for many applications because it uses data to make decisions related to anything from food preparation to packing, dispatching and delivery. Dragontail, for instance, has a delivery dispatching system that can automatically detect which drivers should take orders so that the delivery route is optimized without the manager getting involved.
Levanon believes AI could become standard in restaurants, especially as more operators look for more efficiencies. In light of the pandemic, for example, Dragontail has made enhancements to its AI camera system that can detect on the issue of cleanliness and sanitation. This means the camera can now detect the presence of gloves and masks, how often equipment and workspaces are sanitized and replaced, and even if customers are socially distanced in stores.
“In general, the system has impressive learning capabilities. Once you ‘train it,’ it totally understands whatever the business and customer standards are expected to be and alerts the manager whenever these standards are not fulfilled,” Levanon said.
No doubt we’ll see more AI implementation in the industry, and for applications well beyond safety. Consider that Domino’s U.S. system recently started using AI to both create labor scheduling algorithms and take orders, for example. Domino’s Malaysia and Singapore systems recently deployed AI to scale up its business in the region.
The possibilities for AI really do seem vast in these relatively early days. And, as the COVID-19 pandemic guts the restaurant industry, AI could serve as a tool for both efficiency (labor scheduling and delivery routes) and differentiation (quality assurance).
“We believe more operations that are currently done manually inside and outside the restaurant will be enhanced with machine learning and AI systems to promote safety standards and quality from the moment an order is placed to the moment it is delivered,” Levanon said. “This will be the only way for restaurants to remain competitive in a dynamic industry, improve customer satisfaction with the delivery of hot and fresh meal, and reduce costs to impact the bottom line over time.”