Restaurant chain TGI Fridays has used AI to double its off-premise business over the last year — and is seeing such fast growth that the company has struggled to keep up.

Sherif Mityas, TGI Fridays’ chief experience officer, said the company’s off-premise business — or business that comes from customers that engage with it outside of its restaurants, such as ordering food through the TGI Fridays bot on Messenger — has doubled over the past year to 10 percent of sales, from just 5 percent. And it’s being driven by AI in its marketing.

That’s no small feat. When you’re talking about a $3 billion business, that’s about $300 million in revenue the company is now getting from off-premise, or about $150 million driven by AI-powered marketing. That’s transformative for a company, and particularly impressive when many companies outside of resource-heavy giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon have had a hard time finding the talent or patience to implement AI properly.

When Mityas refers to AI, he’s referring mainly to the company’s machine learning-driven bot that works across multiple channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, Kik, Alexa, and even OnStar, the in-car service owned by GM (for drivers wondering where they’re going to stop for dinner). The Fridays bot is powered by a company called Conversable. That bot service sits on top of Conversable’s AI engine Aqua, which makes the personalized offers based on data stitched together by the customer data startup Amperity.

Fridays’ Mityas said the secret is connecting with each guest in a personal way. Mityas credits the digital agency Rauxa, which helps teach the AI to speak with guests in Fridays’ own voice.

Fridays even offers a virtual bartender (powered by a company called Hypergiant) that can mix you a drink personalized just for you.

Below is the FB Live interview we had with Mityas about how he did it. It’s the first of a series of conversations we’re having in the run-up to our Transform event in SF on August 21-22, where we’re focusing exclusively on how executives are using AI to grow their companies. Join us there to learn more about just how Mityas pulled this off, and what it means for your business.

Apologies for the break in the video at the end. It came just before the end of the conversation anyway.


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