Chick-fil-A is using a customized artificial intelligence system that provides the company with algorithms to analyze social media posts for potential food safety issues across its system. The system was created to enable the company to be more proactive in identifying and addressing food safety risks, according to VentureBeat.
Davis Addy, the chain’s senior principal IT leader of food safety and product quality, told the crowd at the ReWork Deep Learning Summit that social media is the most common customer feedback channel for food safety-related incidents.
Chick-fil-A’s solution is hosted on Amazon’s AWS Comprehend service, which reviews data every 10 minutes from social media platforms, filtering for words like “illness,” “food poisoning” and “nausea.” The solution notifies store managers of any red flags pulled from the data, which allows them to contact customers directly and also allows the company to keep an eye on trends.
Though this system sounds like it could be a no-brainer for restaurant chains to become proactive in identifying food safety issues, it’s far from refined at this point. For example, Addy notes that customers’ posts can be inconsistent, facetious or simply include misspellings that can throw the AI off. That being said, however, Chick-fil-A and Amazon’s custom system have achieved nearly 80% accuracy.
Chick-fil-A’s adoption of AI for food safety protocols is somewhat untested in the industry. VentureBeat published a story earlier this year about a number of caterers in China deploying AI to spot potential issues, and AI is increasingly used to facilitate blockchain technology that traces a food product’s journey through the supply chain in order to make our food safer. But we’re still relatively new to the game with technology enabling a safer product, despite most chains stepping up their food safety protocols. After Chipotle's 2015 E. coli outbreak that sickened dozens of people and eroded the company’s stock, the company deployed Zenput, a mobile platform that tracks operations to ensure no food safety steps are missed. Chipotle also started testing its entire workforce on food safety every quarter. Other chains have also stepped up their training efforts.
But Chick-fil-A’s solution could be a breakthrough, as it depends on data from machine learning, not just training and testing and hoping that employees follow safety protocols every time they're reminded to do so. And, considering a single food-borne illness outbreak can cost a restaurant nearly $2 million, that’s a big deal.
The chain is also experimenting with other AI applications, for example warning employees to wash their hands after handling raw chicken. In fact, Chick-fil-A has been rapidly developing a number of tech innovations since opening its Innovation Center last year. However, perhaps none are as critical as an innovation that can keep its customers safe.