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Outback Goes Big Brother to Monitor Front-of-House Operations

A franchisee with the brand is piloting a new A.I.-powered surveillance system that is programmed to catch and notify management of customer service issues.

According to CNBC, an Outback Steakhouse franchisee is going to be the first restaurateur to implement Presto Vision, a “discreet” nanny-cam style monitor that is trained to detect front-of-house issues. While camera surveillance and emerging tech in restaurants and businesses is not uncommon for customer service—given its capability to contribute to loss prevention and quality control—this new system sets itself apart by being the first system to use artificial intelligence to analyze interactions between guests and employees. 

The cameras are typically placed in the lobby and dining room and can track long wait times, cleanliness and customers who leave without being seated or greeted. Nation’s Restaurant News reported that the devices then send real-time updates to management through either a mobile device or a smart watch. The system also can generate next-day reports that break down the numbers of all of these interactions. 

“With this product, restaurants can now have access to critical insights on how their stores actually work. This helps them provide better service, operate more efficiently and reduce overhead,” said Rajat Suri, founder and CEO of Presto, in a statement reported by NRN. 

Suri stated that the technology used by Presto has already been successfully implemented in stores like Amazon Go, which tracks customers leaving, entering and buying items. 

While Suri is optimistic about the impact that Presto Vision could have on restaurateurs’ bottom line in an industry facing overhead challenges, recent reports have revealed that 25% of companies report up to a 50% failure rate for their AI projects. This level of surveillance—especially if inaccurate—could dissuade employees in an industry already facing a talent crisis, not to mention guests that are wary of invasive monitoring. Would most guests knowingly consent to A.I. surveillance when going out for some baby back ribs? This writer’s lost her appetite.

Read the full story on CNBC here.