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Sunday Musings: Domino’s Delves Deeper Into AI

Domino’s Pizza has established itself as a leader in implementing artificial intelligence (AI). Now, it’s taking a small step for a pizzaiolo, but a giant leap for its business model. It’s redesigning its website with a massive update to its online ordering system…

Store of the Future - © 2023 DominosDomino’s store of the future: May have more auto lanes and fewer
dine-in seats than shown. Will have lots more AI…

All the big fast food chains have been pushing their online and smart phone app ordering and payment systems for a couple of years, now. In fact you can hardly get any kind of deal or special at all if you don’t order electronically.

Domino’s in the forefront

Domino’s really, really wants you to convert to online ordering. It’s redesigning its ‘front end‘ to improve its ‘customer personalization experience’, and its back-of-house (kitchen) systems to maximize efficiency.

“We have to think about the way that this technology can be best utilized to drive customer satisfaction and efficiency in our stores,” Domino’s Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Kelly Garcia says. “We’re broadening on how this new, quickly-moving technology can change the pattern of online ordering in a meaningful way.”

Garcia says the chain will begin deploying advanced AI systems in its stores by the middle of next year. But it’s all part of a grand 5-year plan at the root of the company’s big business-model and store-concept update.

“Our [program] over the next five years will help us serve millions of customers with consistent and engaging ordering experiences, while supporting our corporate stores, franchisees, and their respective team members with tools to make store operations more efficient and reliable.”

A little history

We already know some of what Domino’s – and most of the other major Fast Food purveyors – are planning for us in the near-to-middle future. They’ve all released massive store and traffic flow redesigns, aimed at promoting drive-thru, pick-up and delivery orders while de-emphasizing in-store dining.

Most of the plans will see store footprints shrink and vehicle lanes proliferate on smaller plots of real-estate. Staff numbers will also shrink thanks to the reduced emphasis on dine-in business and the hoped-for growth in electronic ordering.

With the reductions in staff will come significant savings on operating costs. These reductions will be possible thanks to the increasing emphasis on AI.

Don’t need holidays

Fast Food operators expect to save a lot of money and management effort by turning over to AI as may functions as possible that humans currently to fill.

The benefits of automation are many and varied. Machines don’t need wages, holidays or payroll services. You don’t have to constantly juggle their working shifts because they’re ‘always on’, 24/7.

And Domino’s is also saying their new AI systems will allow a more personalized customer experience. Does that mean that they’ll be able to read our minds and order FOR us?

No. But they’ll certainly be able to remember what we’ve ordered in the past, and recognise our ordering patterns. They’ll be able to advise us of deals or specials our ordering history says we’ll be interested in. They’ll reach out to us when we log into the online ordering system. And they’ll even e-mail us proactively with personalized pizza news.

My take

I don’t mind retailers’ AI systems using information from my transaction history to ‘personalize’ or ‘streamline’ my customer experience. But I darned well don’t want people like Domino’s selling my info to external entities, the way many business already sell my e-mail address and other personal information to third parties.

I’m more than a bit cynical about the outreach capabilities of advanced AI. Some folks might like Domino’s to proactively e-mail them news of upcoming specials. But that smells to me like coercion. It’s like Domino’s reaching into my life, suggesting I haven’t ordered enough from them lately. I get more than enough junk e-mail as it is, thanks.

I also wonder if increasingly advanced AI systems will cause changes in our ways of thinking. Will our ability to think critically suffer under the constant, soothing flow of AI-suggested choices? Will just clicking ‘OK’ to the online menu’s suggestions become a convenient habit? Make me somehow a thrall to the company?

Will the day come that I say, “Aw, c’mon! Another e-mail from Domino’s? Maybe I should just order something from them so they’ll leave me alone…”

Muse on that!

~ Maggie J.