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Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA/Getty

As of late, T.G.I. Friday's — that American stalwart of strip malls and airports — has a surprisingly modern engine behind it: artificial intelligence.

What's going on: As researchers keep pushing AI forward, increasing types of businesses are experimenting with basic forms of the technology to cut costs, resolve problems efficiently — and achieve a little wow factor.

The big picture: To hear Friday's tell it, few aspects of its global enterprise haven’t been injected with AI.

  • Algorithms help managers order ingredients, deal with food waste, schedule staff members, and identify fraud.
  • By analyzing staff tips and the average check of the tables they wait, managers get automated recommendations for who gets what shift.

The company is also experimenting with micro-targeting to lure customers more often, Sherif Mityas, chief experience officer at Friday’s, tells Axios.

  • An experimental system can identify frequent customers by their phone. Staff can then greet them by name and lead them to a table where their favorite cocktail is already waiting.
  • Combining cellphone location information with data on who has connected to restaurant wi-fi can allow Friday's to nudge people within a 5-mile radius to come in for dinner.
  • The system starts small, and ramps up its micro-targeting if it gets positive feedback. "You're messing around with guests, so you want to be very careful," Mityas said.

The bottom line: This is a far cry from futuristic robot restaurants in Beijing and Tokyo, but the algorithms at Friday’s reflect the mundane ways AI will soon pervade business.

Go deeper: More on AI-powered micro-targeting at T.G.I. Friday’s (WSJ)

Go deeper

Exclusive: GOP Leader McCarthy asks to meet with Biden about the border

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at CPAC. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has requested a meeting with President Biden to discuss the rising numbers of unaccompanied migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border, in a letter sent on Friday.

Why it matters: Biden is facing criticism from the right and the left as agency actions and media reports reveal spiking numbers of migrant children overwhelming parts of the U.S. immigration system. Recent data shows an average of 321 kids being referred to migrant shelters each day, as Axios reported.

Vaccine hesitancy drops, but with partisan divide

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

69% of the public intends to get a COVID vaccine or already has, up significantly from 60% in November, according to a report out Friday from the Pew Research Center.

Yes, but: The issue has become even more partisan, with 56% of Republicans who say they want or have already received a coronavirus vaccine compared to 83% of Democrats.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

China's 5-year plan is hazy on climate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China's highly anticipated 5-year plan revealed on Friday provides little new information about its climate initiatives, leaving plenty to discuss in multinational meetings this year and lots of blanks for China to fill in later.

Driving the news: The top-line targets for 2025, per state media, aim to lower energy intensity by 13.5% and carbon emissions intensity by 18% — that is, measures of energy use and emissions relative to economic output.