Here's How TGI Fridays Is Creating New Customer Experiences with an AI-Powered Virtual Bartender


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Companies all over the world are looking to leverage the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to drive unique experiences for their customers. Now, TGI Fridays - in collaboration with Hyper Giant - is utilizing these technologies to give birth to the virtual barman.

Casual dining restaurant chain TGI Fridays was looking to create a new mobile-based experience for customers that would help generate new hype for the brand, while simultaneously reinforcing its image as a place to be for young, hip, and tech-savvy consumers.

Over the past year, the company has been experimenting with mobile ordering and AI-driven ad targeting, which targets bespoke ads at individual consumers expressing thirst or hunger on social media. Now, TGI Fridays is turning to machine learning technology to bring something completely new to the table.

The Machine Learning Barman

The result of the project is a new customer-facing mobile feature - integrated into the TGI Friday mobile app and due for national rollout in 2018 - which uses machine learning to recommend unusual cocktails to TGI Fridays' thirsty clientele. Named "Flanagan" - in honor of Tom Cruise's character in the seminal 80s bar movie Cocktail - the new product is built upon a data set of "unexpected ingredients justified against 300 different taste profiles", and will create personalized mixed drinks recommendations based on an individual customer's moods, flavor preferences, and their previous eating and drinking habits at TGI Fridays.

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Flanagan is designed to be easy to use (even by those on their second or third drink). When a customer opens the TGI Friday's app inside a restaurant, Flanagan will assume the bartender role and start to assess the customer's situation by posing a few questions. Are you here to party or chill? Is this the start of a big night, or is it winding down? The customer will then be asked to choose from a list of ingredients which their favorites are, and which they're not so keen on.

Even more impressively, Flanagan also utilizes facial scanning to learn more about the customer, and thereby deliver even more personalized recommendations.

"While a customer is interacting with Flanagan, data is gathered using facial scanning and then anonymized, to determine patron gender and age range," says Hyper Giant.

Looking Forwards

Flanagan will also come with gamification features, designed to reward regular use with leader boards and achievements. Social sharing capabilities and integration with the TGI Fridays loyalty scheme will further incentivize use of the service.

Ultimately, the aim of the project is to help TGI Fridays solve two of its most important business problems - how to get more customers inside restaurants, and how to learn more about them. "By leveraging this robust and future-forward experience, the restaurant can gather multitudinous new data points, learning more about their products and their food and beverage offerings in an effort to achieve the fabled 360-degree view of the customer," says Hyper Giant.

Final Thoughts

As restaurant chains increasingly seek new and innovative ways to automate operations, gain insights into their customers, provide new experiences, and increase customer satisfaction, its tech startups like Hyper Giant that are providing the solutions. Flanagan has the potential to offer a truly memorable experience for customers, create buzz, demonstrate the brand's innovative mindset, and highlight its bar-centric roots. In addition, it offers a template for further kinds of personalization as it learns more about TGI Fridays' customers and their preferences, meaning there's much potential for Flanagan's capabilities to be expanded even more in the future.  

"At TGI Fridays, we are always looking to differentiate and innovate both inside and outside our restaurants," said TGI Fridays' Chief Experience Officer, Sherif Mityas. "Working with the team from Hyper Giant truly allowed us to create a one of kind experience for our guests by utilizing AI technology, combined with our world-class bartenders, to provide a completely new and innovative experience for our guests - one of a kind drinks specifically tailored to each individual guest. The partnership with Hyper Giant has been a great example of utilizing new technologies with traditional practices to create something amazing and new."

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