Imagine it’s Thursday night, the kids have soccer practice and you’re always looking for a place to pick-up dinner on the way home. The kids love pasta, your spouse prefers salad, and you’re craving your favorite burger. But the day gets away, life happens and now it’s 6pm and you haven’t a clue on when/where dinner is actually going to happen.

Then suddenly, you get an alert on your phone—it’s from TGI Fridays! They mention that you ordered two weeks ago, on Thursday night right around this time. They’ve gone ahead and put two kids pastas, a chicken parmesan salad, and your favorite Wingman burger in your cart—all you have to do is hit “order” and it will be ready for pick-up on your way home from practice! This is so easy, you hit “order” and 30 minutes later, you and your family are having a great dinner at home.

Is this Science fiction? Hardly! This happens every day due to the power of AI and its ability to support our efforts to drive “personalization” at scale across our millions of guests every day. In this example, we could have an army of people looking at the purchasing behavior, preferences, order history, social media activity, etc. of an individual guest to be able to create the exact right message at the right time/day on the right platform to drive that next purchase—but we would never be able to do this across millions of guests without the power of AI.

At TGI Fridays, we utilize digital technologies, bots, and data analytics to “connect the dots” of all our guest data and create individual profiles to understand everyone’s unique customer journey. We use this information to feed our AI tools to create specific solutions that will drive the next best action to ensure guest engagement and eventually a purchase event—whether online or in our restaurants.

It’s the power of AI that not only allows us to do this at scale across millions of touchpoints, but also create new options for content that will drive greater consideration by our guests to consider TGI Fridays for that evening’s food or drink occasion.

Additionally, AI goes well beyond past predictive analytics tools and processes. The AI engines do not just select the best option from the variety of selections available, but suggests new content based upon its learnings of an individual guest. Creating new content, messaging, and platform ideas is truly the unique and powerful aspect of this technology which allows both the machine and frankly our internal teams to learn as we continue to implement the solution across the system.

Even with our early successes, AI is still in its infancy. We are all still learning the power of this new technology and allowing the machine to continue to “learn” which is our key to any future path. Given our work thus far, there are three key lessons learned that I would suggest every organization considering AI should contemplate.

First, go slow. There is no award for speed in this area. Allow the AI tools and the organization to learn how to work together and to support better decision making moving forward. The opportunities to make mistakes are great, so truly crawl before attempting to walk or run in this area. The AI tools need time to learn what works and what doesn’t work—a great deal of trial and error will allow the AI and your teams the opportunity to fine tune and coarse correct the output to best maximize your results.

Secondly, don’t go alone. This technology is changing and evolving so fast, it’s imperative to choose the right partners and experts in the field to go on this journey with you. An adage we use in our organization is to “never be the smartest person in the room”—seek out and encourage involvement from across the organization and third parties to ensure your team has the best thinking pushing the effort forward.

Finally, always keep the end-goal in sight. AI can quickly become a “cool new tool” or a PR ploy that no one really uses after the press is gone. It is imperative that you start with the end state goal and then determine how/if AI can help deliver that goal in a more effective or efficient manner. In our case, AI needs to drive guest engagement toward increased revenue or support greater operational efficiency thereby reducing specific costs in our system. Keeping your AI efforts focused will also help support a more positive ROI more quickly by driving early wins and successes.

AI can be a powerful addition to your organization if utilized in the right way and for the right reasons—its ability to support true “Personalization” for your consumers and improve the operational effectiveness of your internal teams are proven benefits. So, go ahead and click “order”— you’ll be amazed at the results.