How McDonald's Get Max ROI from AI

How McDonald's use AI and the one thing you need to get right before you start experimenting with AI powered solutions.

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Today, two industry experts reveal how you can use AI in your F&B business and the best practices you should follow to ensure you get maximum ROI from the technology.


  • In The News: Flash Coffee makes oat the deafult milk, JBS invests in cultivated meat, Coca-Cola’s latest beverage has some Legendary inspiration, and more!

  • Innovation Deep Dive: Two Experts Explain How To Use AI In F&B

    • Real industry use cases for AI

    • How McDonald’s utilizes AI (and the challenges for franchisees)

    • Best practices to follow to get maximum ROI from AI

    • EpicurusGPT and the future of knowledge management in F&B

📰 In The News

A curation of our favorite F&B innovation stories from the week. Can be read in less than a 🧻 break.

🚀 Innovation Deep Dive: Exploring AI For F&B

Weekly deep dive into an F&B trend. Can be read in less than a 🚋 ride.

Ensuring that AI lives up to its potential in the world of F&B isn’t easy. A lack of high-quality data and high implementation costs are likely making you think twice about investing in the trend. But these factors don’t need to get in the way of you seeing benefits from AI in your F&B business.

Today we speak with two experts in the field to find out how F&B companies can leverage the technology and sidestep common errors to ensure maximum ROI from AI.

Our interviewees are Benjamin Diez, Strategy and Insights Manager from McDonald’s Germany, and Jeff Moore, Founder of Moore FoodTech LLC, and an R&D Executive with decades of experience in the F&B and Pharmaceutical industries.

Let’s dive in!

🎤 For many of us, the release of generative AIs like ChatGPT marks a huge leap in what Artificial Intelligence can do. As experts with a lot of experience in this area, what’s your take on this?

Jeff: I think we’ll look back on this moment in time and say that it was something special. An inflection point for sure.

AI isn’t new by any means. The F&B industry has been working with it for over a decade. But the way OpenAI went about launching ChatGPT to the public got the whole world excited about the tech like never before.

Ben: It’s definitely a huge leap forward for natural language processing. I read a book last year about AI which explained the technology wasn’t advanced enough to recognize concepts, such as “someone riding a bike”, for example. One year later we have DALL-E 2 and other AI that do this easily.

🎤 What are the most promising use cases for AI in the F&B industry?

Jeff: Put simply, the areas which stand to gain the biggest ROI. Right now that’s in areas like consumer insights and marketing. Think mining social media data for insights on consumer attitudes to your brand, or your latest product launch.

Manufacturing has long been benefiting from AI through predictive maintenance and quality control applications.

Finally, the area where I first sunk my teeth into AI in F&B was quality control testing of raw materials. I used AI for testing products as they move through the supply chain for any anomalies. The use of advanced data analytics like AI is particularly developed in high-value ingredients like the spice industry where there are a lot of things that can go wrong like adulteration and fraud.

Ben: “The biggest ROI” is key here. For many businesses that’s about delivering direct benefits to customers, technology that improves the consumer experience, such as personalized menu recommendations at service counters or via the McDonald’s App.

🎤 Can you share insights about how McDonald's is implementing AI?

Ben: There are a few use cases already in place, but overall we are still very much in the exploratory phase.

For example, we’ve done a successful pilot test using image recognition AI to determine how long it takes customers at the drive-thru to receive their orders. This has clear benefits in terms of improving fulfillment speeds and is a great example of a tangible use case.

🎤 Is it challenging to implement new tech like AI with McDonald’s franchise model?

Ben: This is something I regularly deal with and it all comes down to the right approach.

We have to start small with a pilot test in a few selected stores, preferably run by tech-savvy and vocal franchisees. That way if we have success with new technology like AI, they’ll become our champions to get buy-in from other franchisees to implement the technology.

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The strong point about McDonald's is that we collect a lot of data already and have good governance in place. This is really crucial for companies to be able to get ROI from AI.

🎤 On that note, what are the best practices for F&B companies to follow to ensure they see benefits from implementing AI in their businesses?

Jeff: Good quality data. And lots of it. It’s not enough just to gather data either, it needs to be done strategically, ensuring that the way it's collected and formatted is consistent across data sets. Otherwise, when it comes to feeding it to AI, you won’t get good results. Plus you’ll likely have significant upfront investments in getting the data into a condition where it can work for an AI.

This is why consumer insights and marketing is the most common use case for AI in F&B. Thanks to social media, there’s so much data readily available to analyze. Whereas for business areas like product development, companies have been a lot slower to start strategically gathering data. Digitizing a lot of paper records or reformatting existing digital ones can be very expensive.

Ben: I completely agree with Jeff. Companies rely on good data governance. They need someone to take the lead in ensuring that good data collection processes are in place throughout the company. This is easy to say but hard to do as there’s a lot involved in data management, especially in international organizations with a lot of different data sources.

For example, the way we input dates in Germany is different from the US. So when we combine large data sets from different sites or departments, it can result in a lot of lost time aligning the date formats. Time-consuming exercises like this can be avoided with good data governance!

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One more thing is, companies need to think strategically. Making AI work for your business is a long game. It requires patience and it’s easy to get bored and give up. 

🎤 On the topic of AI that brings near-instant benefits, you guys have just launched your own AI for the F&B industry. Tell us about EpicurusGPT.

Jeff: EpicurusGPT is a ChatGPT-powered chatbot for the F&B industry.

We got the idea for the project when we were working on an essay together about how generative AI could transform the F&B industry. Our research for the article led us to gather a big corpus of knowledge about AI in food and beverage. It took us a while and so we thought: what if we could feed this to ChatGPT and let other people engage with it?

Ben: As you know, ChatGPT is only trained on data up until September 2021 (at the time of writing). We had a lot of more recent sources that we believed the F&B industry could benefit from accessing.

EpicurusGPT is a kind of “consultant in your pocket”. You can ask it pretty much anything about AI in food and beverage and it will give you relevant, insightful answers for F&B professionals.

🎤 How is the industry responding to EpicurusGPT so far?

Jeff: F&B professionals are finding value in Epicurus GPT's ability to provide easy access to expert, industry-specific knowledge. Still, it's not without its growing pains. User interface bugs and gaps in knowledge represent areas for improvement. 

Ben: The feedback is vital for iterating and improving the tool.

🎤 What's your future vision for EpicurusGPT?

Ben: We didn't set out with a grand ten-year vision for Epicurus GPT. However, we see great potential for it to become a valuable tool that democratizes access to AI in the F&B industry. 

Jeff: We’d love to see Epicurus GPT evolve and become the equivalent of a pocket AI consultant for everyone from small café owners to multinational fast-food chains.

That’s all folks

Thanks for reading today’s newsletter.

A huge thank you to Benjamin Diez and Jeff Moore for supporting this interview.

See you next Tuesday as we begin a new series and dive deep into another trending innovation in the F&B industry.

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