The Unsettling Way Restaurants Could Predict Your Order

Ever so quietly, robots are taking over fast food. In addition to the proliferation of self-service ordering kiosks, restaurants are automating tasks that humans currently take care of. Domino's is testing driverless pizza-delivery vehicles and KFC is working to develop chicken-cooking bots to staff their kitchens (per The Spoon).

And if your job as a restaurant customer is to decide what you want and place an order, robots and algorithms could be coming for you next. Food delivery app GrubHub, for example, analyzed thousands of dishes and data points to create a personalized recommendation system (per Wired). And you might soon place McDonald's orders in a more futuristic way if the chain adopts automated voice machines to greet you in the drive-thru. Although the chain recently sold the decision-tech startup Dynamic Yield, which they purchased in 2019, the Golden Arches say they've already used the technology to try to personalize their kiosks and drive-thrus (via CNBC).

However, some restaurants are taking things a step further, using artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology to predict what you want to eat.

How technology can let your facial expression order food for you

More and more popular restaurants are piloting artificial intelligence (AI) systems for ordering. Burger King's "Deep Flame" AI platform uses data from nearby locations, weather updates, and more on digital menu boards to pitch popular or pertinent options you might want (via New York Times). Restaurant Brands International, which owns Popeye's and Tim Hortons as well as Burger King, announced they'll also install "predictive selling" at 10,000 drive-thrus to match menu displays to previous orders based on loyalty account (per RBI).

However, things are getting a bit, let's say, creepy. Using AI and facial recognition, restaurants are finding ways to personalize menus based on customers' faces. A new technology aims to integrate self-service kiosks with cameras that evaluate diners' gender, age, mood, facial expression, and more to show them dishes that'll supposedly appeal to them (via Bon Appetit). The actor and restaurant investor Mark Wahlberg is an advisor and brand advocate for the company that's behind the tech, though the new technology is not "fully available" in any Wahlburgers locations yet (per Restaurant Business). So next time you pull up to the order window, you might not even need to think about what you're hungry for — like it or not, your face will do the talking.