Imagine: Its Thursday night. The kids have soccer practice and you’re always looking for a place to pick up dinner on the way home. The kids love pasta, your spouse prefers salad and you’re craving your favorite burger. But the day gets away, life happens and now its 6 p.m. and you haven’t a clue about when or where dinner is actually going to happen.

Then suddenly, you get an alert on your phone, and it’s from your favorite restaurant. They mention that you ordered from them two weeks ago — on a Thursday night, right around this time. They’ve gone ahead and put two kids pastas, a chicken parmesan salad and your favorite burger in your cart. All you have to do is hit “order” and your food will be ready for pickup on your way home from practice. With one press of a button, you're enjoying your favorite food at home.

The future is now

Science fiction? Hardly, this happens every day, thanks to the power of AI and its ability to drive “personalization” at scale across the millions of potential consumers every day.  In this example, you could have an army of people looking at the purchasing behavior, preferences, order history and social media activity of an individual guest to be able to predict the right message at the exact time of day on the right platform to drive that next purchase — but you would never be able to do this across millions of guests without the power of AI.

We're using digital technologies, bots and data analytics to “connect the dots” of all our guest data and create individual profiles to understand everyone’s unique customer journey. We use this information to feed our AI tools to create specific solutions that will drive the next best action to ensure guest engagement and eventually a purchase event — whether online or at one of our restaurants.

What we learned

Even with these early successes, AI is still in its infancy. We are all still learning the power of this new technology and allowing the machine to continue to “learn” is the key to any future path forward. Given our work thus far, there are three key lessons learned that I would suggest every organization considering AI should contemplate.

1. Go slow

There's no reward for speed. Allow the AI tools and the organization to learn how to work together and to support better decision making moving forward. The opportunities to make mistakes are great, so it's best to crawl before attempting to walk or run.  The AI tools need time to learn what works and what doesn’t work; a great deal of trial and error will allow the AI and your teams the opportunity to fine-tune and course correct the output to best maximize your results.

2. Don't go it alone

This technology is changing and evolving so fast, it’s imperative to choose the right partners and experts in the field to go on this journey with you. An adage we use in our organization is, “Never be the smartest person in the room.” That means seek out and encourage involvement from across the organization and third parties to ensure your team has the best thinking pushing the effort forward.

3. Keep the end goal in sight  

AI can quickly become a “cool new tool” or a public relations ploy that no one really uses after the press is gone. It is imperative that you start with the end state goal and then determine how/if AI can help deliver that goal in a more effective or efficient manner. Keeping your AI efforts focused will also help support a more positive ROI more quickly by driving early wins and successes.

AI can be a powerful addition to your organization if utilized in the right way and for the right reasons – its ability to support true “personalization” for your consumers and improve the operational effectiveness of your internal teams are proven benefits.  So, go ahead and click “order.” You’ll be amazed at the results.