Business Insights

The ABCs of AI

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Don’t let the infusion of artificial intelligence (AI) technology intimidate you. Generative AI can be a great way to predict food trends and inspire new menu innovations and is likely here to stay in commercial foodservice.

“AI can make operators’ lives easier.”

Bo Bryant, Shamrock Foods Restaurant Consultant

Traditionally, our industry has survived on human-created tasks like menus, branding, and other day-to-day functions,” says Tim Maness, Shamrock Foods Chef, Colorado. “AI can fill the void on some of these challenging tasks, from social media to sales data and recruiting.”  

Bo Bryant, a Restaurant Consultant at Shamrock Foods, adds, “AI can make operators’ lives easier by freeing up more time for executing their vision, working with staff, and focusing on customer-service improvements.” 

Is AI right for your operation? Evaluate your business needs, your budget, and your capabilities.  

Getting StarTED

“AI can automate arduous tasks like social media copy in seconds. It’s a game changer!”
Kelli Daniels, Colorado Restaurant Consultant

"Just start,” says Jim Hargrove, Shamrock Foods Restaurant Consultant. “Get access to something simple like ChatGPT — a computer program developed by OpenAI that uses deep machine learning to generate human-like text. It predicts what should come next based on the input it receives.” 

“Start simple by having it do a menu-price comparison with the other restaurants in your neighborhood,” says Jonathon Merrick, Shamrock Foods Chef & Produce Specialist, Idaho. “Or type in a few LTOs you’re going to run this weekend and ask for wording suitable for X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, etc. Soon you’ll be using it for a head start on job descriptions, help-wanted content, and much more.” 

ChatGPT can create content on its own, but it’s critical to keep a human review system in place. 

“You can ask ChatGPT to ‘write 10 creative names for a steak dish,’ or to ‘create a menu for a kid’s birthday party using chicken tenders,’” says Chef Thomas Vigil, Shamrock Foods Branch Chef, Colorado. But you still need to determine whether content faithfully represents your menu and brand. 

“You’ll have to do editing and customization to your needs, but the AI programs can do the bulk of the heavy lifting,” adds Ryan Elmore, Shamrock Foods Restaurant Consultant, New Mexico. 

The bottom line? 

“AI presents fantastic opportunities to work in conjunction with restaurant staff to help prioritize and strategize,” says Jeff Koppel, Shamrock Foods Branch Sous Chef, Colorado. 

“But always remember that the human touch is what customers crave,” Vigil adds. “Hospitality never goes out of style.” 


Keep in Mind

  • AI may not be right for your operation... yet.
  • Track advances and stay open to implementing them, but don’t force it. “Watch the tech evolve over the next few cycles and jump in when you can confidently balance ROI with customer experience and hospitality,” says Karim Refaey, Shamrock Foods Restaurant Consultant, Idaho.
  • Never run AI-generated messages automatically. Always review them.
  • Be specific. Ask AI to do exactly what you want it to do.
  • Be transparent. Let staff know about how AI will affect their jobs.

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Examples of AI Applications

  • 7shifts: A scheduling and team-management platform. 
  • Scheduling and labor forecasting. 
  • SmartSense: Critical Control Point monitoring for food safety. 
  • SoundHound: Audio and speech recognition for chatbots.
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