Social media platforms have shown the restaurant chain using server robots for some time now. Posts dating back to the fall of last year show these robots in action, whizzing around the store with customers’ food.
Chick-fil-A is not the only restaurant trying out robo-waiters. Similar technology has become popular with Korean restaurateurs dealing with a labor shortage.
Yet not all tests of this technology have been successful. Last year, casual dining giant Chili’s halted the expansion of its trial of robotic servers, suggesting that consumers may not always be open to the technology in a full-service context.
Most consumers have no interest in seeing robotics take over the dining experience. For PYMNTS’ exclusive report, “Connected Dining: The Robot Will Take Your Order Now,” we surveyed nearly 2,000 U.S. consumers about how they feel about different restaurant technologies and why. The study revealed that 33% of men are interested in visiting a restaurant that uses robotics, and that share drops to 17% for women.
In the survey, consumers expressed concerns about automation making the restaurant experience less personal, about job loss for human workers, about decreased accuracy and about privacy and safety.
Yet automation is increasingly becoming part of restaurants’ operations, even if it is typically in less noticeable ways than, say, deploying robotic servers. Data cited in the PYMNTS report “Inflation Puts Technology on the Menu for Restaurants,” the June edition of the “B2B and Digital Payments Tracker®,” created in collaboration with American Express, showed that 76% of restaurants are already using automation in at least three areas of operations.
Plus, there are situations in which consumers are more open to these kinds of innovations. Findings from another study highlighted in the Tracker® indicated that 70% of consumers are interested in applying technological aids, such as artificial intelligence (AI) voice assistants, personalized menus and smartphone apps, into the drive-thru process.
“I had a really fun experience when I first started at the company: The team, to demonstrate some of our AI capabilities and how can we predict what an individual customer’s going to do, showed me my profile as seen through loyalty programs,” Hindman said, noting that the technology calculated the days he would be most likely to make a purchase, among other behavior predictions, with surprising accuracy.