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How T.G.I. Friday's uses artificial intelligence

A surveillance camera next to a T.G.I. Friday’s sign
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)