Taco Bell and Pizza Hut prioritize AI in fast-food advancements

Yum! Brands, the parent company of popular fast-food chains such as KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and The Habit Burger Grill, is reportedly embracing technology with plans for "AI-powered" fast food, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The company has been ramping up its investment in technology and automation, with about 45% of its sales now being digital – nearly twice the amount from 2019. Yum's chief digital and technology manager, Joe Park, mentioned that this level of investment is roughly double what it was in 2019.

With California's new minimum wage law recently taking effect, requiring most fast-food workers to be paid $20 per hour, many restaurant operators, including Yum, are turning to AI to cut costs and increase sales, according to the Journal. The use of AI in the fast-food industry aims to go beyond just improving the customer experience and includes technological advancements such as a mobile app for restaurant managers called SuperApp, which is currently being used by over 8,700 Pizza Hut and KFC establishments.

Yum's AI investments are partially funded by fees from franchise owners, although the specific amount of these fees was not disclosed. Despite concerns that AI may replace the need for human workers, a Yum spokesperson reassured the Wall Street Journal that employees will continue to play a critical role in the company.

This move towards AI-powered fast food comes as many fast-food chains are increasing their investments in technology, such as digital ordering and drive-thrus, in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As Yum! Brands continues to explore the possibilities of AI in the fast-food industry, it remains to be seen how this shift towards automation will impact both customers and employees in the long run.


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