How Can Bars & Restaurants Use AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been discussed—and used—for years. Basically, artificial intelligence makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs, and perform tasks that previously could only be conducted by humans.

Many of us are most familiar with AI through the daily use of voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant to do everything from hear a weather report, play music, get directions, and even perform tasks like turn on lights.

But this year, artificial intelligence has taken a giant step forward with the creation of generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney, and Jasper. Simply put, generative AI is artificial intelligence capable of generating new content, designs, chat responses, and more. Generative AI models learn the patterns and structure of their input training data and then generate new data that has similar characteristics, which can be used to create different types of media and even problem solve or answer questions.

Most of the jobs impacted by AI and generative AI have been white collar jobs with a heavy focus on office or administrative work. However, that doesn't mean AI doesn't have—and will play a larger role—in "deskless" jobs like those in the food and beverage industry.

One example of this is the recent launch of Legion Copilot from Legion Technologies, an innovator in workforce management (WFM). This generative AI-powered assistant is embedded within the Legion WFM platform. It's aimed at Legion's customers across the food services and hospitality industries, and it's designed to boost employees’ skills and increase their engagement with the platform to achieve greater productivity.

“With the generative AI copilot in Legion WFM, users don’t just receive information relevant to their day-to-day work—they wield the power to drive actions and execute powerful WFM workflows using simple conversational interactions,” said Sanish Mondkar, CEO and founder of Legion, in a press release. 

Some of the actions that can be driven include:

  • Nudging employees toward certain actions, giving them quick access to the tools and information they need to complete a task.
  • Obtaining clear, direct answers to questions about the job.
  • Getting insights into business policies and optimization criteria to drive better decision-making.
  • Easy access to schedule data and insights to effortlessly make schedule modifications

We spoke with Michael Spataro, chief customer officer at Legion, to learn more about the ways in which generative AI can be used in bars and restaurants. "Through simple voice commands, they can bypass manual searches on the app to get the information they need, whether it’s their schedule for the next week, important compliance documents, or tips from the employee handbook. The introduction of generative AI won’t interfere with day-to-day systems and processes but will make them easier to manage and understand." 

Generative AI Can Answer All Your Questions 

If an employee has a question, generative AI has an answer. "Generative AI has gained popularity and recognition due to its capacity to provide instant answers," says Spataro, who says this same principle can be applied to jobs in the food and beverage industry. "[It gives] hourly employees access to essential information through simple natural language commands."

In addition to answering questions, generative AI tools will also be able to provide insights into the next steps to take in a task or duty. "In a restaurant, this might look like a server asking how to input an order, or kitchen staff receiving automatic prompts on cleaning procedures at the end of the night," explains Spataro. "Through simple exchanges like these, a generative AI assistant can mitigate everyday workplace errors while improving learning and development."

Technology Can Improve the Guest Experience

The guest experience is king in the on-premise industry. And while it may seem counterintuitive that a piece of technology can aid in the relationship between people and their collective experiences, there are ways in which generative AI can make moments more meaningful.

"This technology can help reduce tedious administrative tasks, enable proper staffing, and help train employees to deliver a better service experience, which will have a tremendous impact on the success of the business," says Spataro.

When employees aren't spending time on tedious tasks that aren't customer-facing, the guest experience improves. When a restaurant or bar is properly staffed each night, each guest receives more attention and better service. And when employees are well trained and knowledgeable about the menu, venue, and systems like the POS system, the guest benefits.

"By removing and reducing inefficiencies with generative AI, bars and restaurants will find their staff able to be more engaged in the truly critical parts of their jobs: serving customers, preparing food and drink with care, and supporting their teammates," says Spataro.

Let AI Handle Your Staff Scheduling

In Legion's latest State of the Hourly Workforce Report, scheduling and schedule management was cited as the number-one thing managers wish was intelligently automated. Enter generative AI.

"When workers can effortlessly circumvent the multi-step process of searching for personalized answers about their schedules, they can readily reclaim their time by making modifications such as adding, deleting, or editing shifts," says Spataro, who notes that Legion's Copilot also includes permissions so that users can only access and interact with data within the bounds of their role.

AI can also prevent under or overstaffing thanks to the automation of demand forecasting and scheduling. "This is especially critical in the midst of the ongoing labor shortage, with restaurants and bars struggling to get enough people on staff," says Spataro. "In using AI to match available staff to predicted demand, the platform is able to alleviate that burden and optimize labor efficiency."

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Conclusion: AI is About Automation, Not Abolishing Jobs

Generative AI is gaining a foothold in nearly every major industry, and the hospitality sector is uniquely poised to benefit from it.

"Though many workers have said they’re afraid that AI will take their jobs, what’s really happening is that the technology is empowering them to be more productive and build connections with the customers they serve," says Spataro. "And in the food and beverage industry, a service-forward culture can make or break your reputation." 


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