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Artificial Intelligence Is Reshaping the Fast-Food Industry, Despite Mixed Reactions

Ryan Lenett



Over the past few years, fast-food restaurants, ranging from White Castle to Wendy’s, have made significant investments in artificial intelligence (AI) technology, particularly for drive-thru operations. While these businesses are optimistic about potential benefits such as increased sales and efficiency, there are concerns about the potential impact on employment and customer satisfaction.

Driving AI Adoption

Since 2021, several chains have been experimenting with AI tools, including automated voice ordering systems, which replace human interaction with AI technology at the drive-thru. These efforts gained further momentum in May 2023, when CKE Restaurants (owner of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.) and Wendy’s announced major AI initiatives. CKE plans to broaden its AI ordering capability following a successful pilot. At the same time, Wendy’s has expanded its partnership with Google Cloud to include an AI ordering tool at the drive-thru, currently being piloted in Columbus, Ohio. Even industry suppliers are acknowledging the challenges inherent in this application. Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud, recently emphasized the difficulty of AI handling drive-thru orders in a noisy environment (Wall Street Journal).

Customer and Employee Reactions

Public reaction to AI drive-thrus has been mixed. There have been reports of AI errors, and some customers have expressed a preference for human interaction. In one case, at an Indiana White Castle using AI in its drive-thru, three out of ten customers requested to speak with a human employee due to errors or a desire for human interaction.

The Upsell Potential

Despite the hurdles, companies see potential benefits in adopting AI. Presto Automation, an AI company working with restaurants, including CKE, noted that AI could drive sales through constant upselling, potentially resulting in higher check sizes. They argue that customers prefer faster service and higher customer satisfaction, both of which can be facilitated through AI. Additionally, the technology can suggest products based on the weather, time of day, the order itself, or the customer’s order history.

Industry-wide Adoption

The trend toward AI adoption is not limited to CKE and Wendy’s. Other chains, including McDonald’s, Del Taco, and Wingstop, have also begun using AI for drive-thru or phone orders. Yum! Brands have been using AI to streamline food preparation and delivery. Panera Bread and Chipotle have gone a step further, applying AI to both front- and back-of-house operations, including voice ordering and product consistency control.

Workforce Considerations and the Future

AI’s role in the fast-food industry isn’t just about customer interaction—it also has significant implications for the workforce. The National Restaurant Association predicts the industry will add 500,000 jobs by the end of 2023, but currently, there’s just one job seeker for every two open positions. Some see AI as a solution to this issue, but others worry that it may replace human jobs. Despite these concerns, AI’s potential to augment service speed, increase sales, and provide better customer satisfaction could result in a domino effect of adoption across the industry. However, broad adoption still has several hurdles, including getting franchisees on board and handling language barriers and menu complexities that AI may not yet navigate efficiently. 

A Closer Look at Specific AI Initiatives

CKE Restaurants has made a noteworthy stride in incorporating AI. The company aims to launch AI integrations nationwide, partnering with Presto and OpenCity AI. Similarly, McDonald’s sold McD Tech Labs to IBM in 2021, leading to a strategic partnership aimed at infusing AI technology into their drive-thru lanes.

Reimagining Back-of-House Operations

Other chains are leveraging AI to improve back-of-house operations. Yum! Brands, for instance, has been a frontrunner in using AI to enhance operations, integrating Dragontail technology to automate kitchen flow, driver dispatch, and customer order tracking. It’s currently used in 1,000 Pizza Hut locations in the U.S. and nearly 3,000 more globally.

AI Enhancing Customer Experience

AI isn’t solely an operational tool but also a means to provide a more personalized experience for consumers. Panera Bread is using AI in collaboration with OpenCity AI for drive-thru voice ordering and with Miso Robotics to ensure coffee quality and temperature control for product consistency. The company aims to use AI to give restaurant workers the opportunity to create more meaningful experiences with guests. Chipotle, a tech leader in the restaurant space, has introduced Chippy, its robotic chipmaker, which was trained using AI to reproduce the brand’s chip recipe accurately. The company also uses AI on its app for suggestive ordering, giving customers a more tailored experience.


While there’s still a long way to go, and more tests and adjustments will be required, there’s no denying that AI has made a bold entry into the fast-food industry. Only time will tell how it reshapes the sector and how customers and workers will adapt to this technological evolution.

Ryan is a car enthusiast and an accomplished team builder passionate about crafting captivating narratives. Known for his ability to transport readers to other worlds, his writing has garnered attention and a dedicated following. With a keen eye for detail and a gift for storytelling, Ryan continues to weave literary magic in every word he writes.


Tesla’s Stock Tumbles After Q4 Earnings Miss and Production Growth Warning

Ryan Lenett



Tesla, led by CEO Elon Musk, revealed its fourth-quarter earnings, which fell below the predictions of analysts. Consequently, Tesla’s shares dropped in value. In Q4, Tesla reported revenues of $25.17 billion, missing the anticipated $25.87 billion and marking merely a 3% increase from the prior year. Their adjusted earnings per share (EPS) came in at $0.71, shy of the expected $0.73, and their adjusted net income of $2.486 billion was under the projected $2.61 billion.

Downward Pressure on Profit Margins

The company’s drop in profits can in part be traced back to lower margins due to price cuts that started in late 2022. Q4’s gross margin was 17.6%, which is down from last year and slightly less than the 17.9% seen.

Lowered Production Growth Expectations

Tesla also hinted that its vehicle growth rate in 2024 might be “noticeably lower” than this year’s rate. It suggests that hitting analyst’s predictions of 2.19 million vehicles for 2024, up 21% from 2023, might not happen. The slower growth rate is partly because they’re starting a next-gen vehicle at their Texas Gigafactory.

Next-Generation Vehicle Launch

  • Anticipated Release: Elon Musk confirmed that Tesla’s next-gen vehicle is expected to enter production in the second half of 2025.
  • Innovative Manufacturing: Tesla aims to revolutionize vehicle manufacturing with its new platform, focusing on efficient production at Gigafactory Texas.

Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

Looking ahead, Tesla faces hurdles like slower growth and more competition; however, it’s also seeing new possibilities. They’re launching the Cybertruck and working on an Optimus humanoid robot, showing Tesla’s eagerness to mix up its offerings and break into fresh market areas.

Elon Musk’s Ambitions and Leadership

As for Elon Musk, he stays firm at Tesla’s helm, ready to push the company even further. Even though some are questioning his intention to own a quarter of Tesla, Musk is all in to steer the brand towards bright prospects in AI and robotics. His plan covers more than just making electric cars – he’s looking at reshaping Tesla into an AI and robotics powerhouse.

Conclusion: Navigating a Transition Phase

Wrapping things up, Tesla’s newest financial results, followed by a dip in their stock price, show a biz that’s changing pace. Even though Tesla’s always moving forward and coming up with fresh ideas, it’s starting to deal with a market that’s not so new anymore. Plus, they’ve got to figure out how to make more of their latest goods without messing up. The next twelve months are super important for Tesla. They’ve got to get through these tough spots but still stay at the top of the game when it comes to electric cars.

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Amazon Prime Video to Incorporate Ads Starting January 29th

Cam Speck



Beginning on January 29th, folks with Amazon Prime Video will see a big switch: TV shows and movies will start to include ads. Amazon is shaking things up by rolling out these ads across big markets such as the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Canada to start with. Later down the road, places like France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, and Australia will have them too.

Subscription Changes and Costs

To avoid ads, users have the option to pay an additional $2.99 per month. This means the current $14.99 per month Prime subscription would increase to $17.98 per month, and the standalone Prime Video subscription would jump from $8.99 to $11.98 per month. Amazon has assured that their ad-supported tier will have “meaningfully fewer ads than linear TV and other streaming TV providers.”

Financial Implications and Market Analysis

  • Revenue Projections: Morgan Stanley predicts that Prime Video ads might rake in an impressive $3.3 billion in 2024 and could climb to $7.1 billion by 2026. Moffett Nathanson, a different analyst group, gives a lower forecast yet expects big gains too.
  • Market Impact: Analysts from MoffettNathanson predict Amazon’s move will disrupt the market, potentially stealing share from cable networks and ad-supported VOD players. They expect this change to be a “disruptive force” in the advertising and streaming landscape.
  • Prime Video’s Viewer Reach: Alexys Coronel, head of U.S. entertainment and telecommunications for Amazon Ads, highlighted Prime Video’s potential to reach 115 million unique viewers in the U.S. alone.
  • Amazon’s Expanding Digital Ad Market: Amazon reported an ad revenue of $12.06 billion in the third quarter of 2023, a 26% increase year-over-year, underlining its growing dominance in the digital advertising space.

User Response and Projections

Despite the introduction of ads, most Prime Video users are expected to continue with the ad-supported version. MoffettNathanson’s projections assume about 15% of Prime Video users will opt for the ad-free subscription. The firm’s models also predict an incremental revenue of $500 million per year from Prime members who choose to avoid ads.

Comparison with Competitors and Future Trends

Amazon is not alone in this shift toward ad-supported streaming. Competitors like Netflix, Disney Plus, Max, Paramount Plus, Hulu, and Peacock have already implemented similar strategies. However, Amazon’s move into advertising is significant due to its massive market share and extensive viewer reach. By 2025, the U.S. connected TV and ad-supported VOD market is estimated to be around $16 billion, with Amazon and Disney expected to lead the segment.

Amazon’s Long-term Content Investment Strategy

Amazon points out that it needs to keep pouring money into great shows and movies and plans to do so for a long time. This is part of a bigger trend in the streaming world, where services are leaning on ad money to grow their list of offerings. 

Implications for Amazon Prime Members

Choice for Consumers

Amazon’s new ad strategy gives Prime members a choice: stick with the version that has ads and not pay more or cough up extra cash to watch without any interruptions. Consumers will have to decide if they’re okay with ads or if they’d rather spend more each month. 

Impact on Viewing Habits

Putting ads into the mix might change how some Prime members watch stuff. Amazon plans to have shorter ads than you’d find on regular TV to make things less annoying. But whether this will keep viewers happy and engaged is still up in the air.


Ads are now on Amazon Prime Video, and it’s a big deal. It’s going to change the way we watch stuff and how businesses make money from their services. Amazon has tons of users and a lot of money, so they’re likely to become a really important part of the world where streaming services are free but show ads. This is a fresh start for Prime Video. They’re trying to make sure viewers still have a good time while they also make more cash in this fast-changing area of digital fun. For the nitty-gritty on Amazon Prime Video’s shiny new way that includes ads, click here.

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The Impact of the Blocked JetBlue-Spirit Merger on the Airline Industry and Communities

Cam Speck



This week marked a significant turning point in the U.S. airline industry as a federal judge blocked the $3.8 billion deal between the sixth-largest and seventh-largest U.S. airlines, JetBlue and Spirit. This decision by Judge William Young not only impacts these two airlines but also signals an end to four decades of consistent airline consolidation that has affected passengers, workers, smaller communities, and commerce. The ruling is seen as a triumph for the Biden Justice Department’s aggressive antitrust enforcement and sets a new precedent in the regulation of airline mergers.

The Local Impact: Arnold Palmer Regional Airport

The ruling leaves Spirit Airlines with an uncertain future, a situation that could profoundly impact the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport (LBE) in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The airport, serving areas east of Pittsburgh, is heavily reliant on Spirit Airlines, which is its only commercial carrier. This dependency highlights the broader implications of the merger’s failure on smaller communities and regional economies.

  • Economic Contribution: A 2022 study by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation estimated the economic impact of arriving and departing passengers from LBE at $213.9 million, with $100 million attributed to Spirit Airlines travelers.
  • Reduced Service: Currently, Spirit has scaled down its services at LBE to a single direct flight to Orlando, though hopes remain for the resumption of service to Myrtle Beach in the spring.

The Unique Role of Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines has made a name for itself by focusing on vacation-goers, university students, missionaries, and anyone else on the lookout for cheap flights without fancy extras. This approach turned the airline into a key lifeline, especially in places like South Florida. Here, it battles competitors with low prices, providing budget-friendly holiday choices and playing a significant role in the tourism industry.

  • Impact on Consumers: The absence of Spirit from the market could lead to increased prices for tourists and limit vacation options for families in South Florida.
  • Service to Offbeat Destinations: Spirit’s focus on destinations like Port-au-Prince during times of unrest has been invaluable for certain communities. However, its approach to baggage and low-cost tickets has drawn mixed reactions from consumers in these regions.

JetBlue and Spirit’s Struggle in a Constrained Industry

The halted merger highlights bigger problems in the airline business. This industry is an oligopoly with just a handful of big companies in charge, which makes it tough for smaller ones, such as JetBlue and Spirit, to expand on their own. Also, there are issues with making enough planes: Airlines can’t get new planes as fast as they’d like. Supply chain troubles play a role here, and so does Airbus’s stronghold on plane making, which limits its growth. Boeing’s recent quality control challenges further exacerbate this problem.

  • Engine Issues and Airline Growth Constraints: Spirit’s exclusive use of Pratt & Whitney engines, which have had reliability issues, highlights the technical and operational hurdles facing airlines.

Implications of the Ruling

The ruling against the merger is seen as a necessary step to prevent further consolidation and maintain competition in the airline industry. However, it also emphasizes the need to address the larger issues of oligopolistic control and manufacturing constraints.

  • Future of Air Travel: The blockage of the merger could prompt a reevaluation of strategies within the industry, focusing on fair pricing and expanding manufacturing capacities.
  • Potential Appeal and Industry Response: The airlines have formally appealed the decision, citing the potential benefits of a larger JetBlue in fostering competitive pricing and service innovation.


The outcome of the JetBlue-Spirit merger blockage extends beyond the airlines themselves, affecting regional economies, consumer choices, and the broader airline industry. While the decision has been hailed for preventing further consolidation, it also highlights critical challenges that the industry must address to ensure sustainable growth and competition. The situation underscores the delicate balance between maintaining competitive markets and supporting the growth and development of the airline sector. For more in-depth analysis, you can read a related article here.

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