BBQ restaurant chain becomes one of the first to embrace artificial intelligence

A restaurant in Cardiff has become the first in Wales to embrace the power of artificial intelligence – a move that reflects a growing momentum in the hospitality industry to adopt the sophisticated technology.

The Smoke Haus, a restaurant brand that specialises in slow-cooked barbequed meats, has launched ‘BBQ Babs’, the ‘Haus’ chatbot, at its Cardiff restaurant and plans to roll it out to its other premises in Swansea and Birmingham later this year.

BBQ Babs was developed specifically for The Smoke Haus by Cardiff software development partnership The Social Code – a joint venture between Glad People and Arriba Systems. 

Chatbots are software programmes, which can include AI components, designed to interact with people over messaging apps such as, Facebook Messenger, Twitter Direct Message, Slack, Kik, Telegram and WeChat.

BBQ Babs is one of the latest chatbots to be developed within the UK for use by the hospitality industry.

According to the chain, the trend of mobile applications is beginning to fade, due to the idea that consumers are finding the extra step of downloading and storing these apps on their phone an inconvenience. Instead of these apps, developers are turning to the chatbot, which can be used through applications such as the Facebook Messenger app.

By scanning a special code or clicking the Facebook Messenger link – which brings The Smoke Haus’ BBQ Babs to life in the Facebook Messenger app – customers will be able to ask BBQ Babs a range of questions from the menu, and even choose the music in the restaurant by chatting with the ‘Bot’.

They will also be rewarded with loyalty points and discounts the more they engage with BBQ Babs or when they recommend people to join the programme.

Mark Power, managing director of The Smoke Haus, said: “We already have some great staff and our personal touch will very much remain as a business, but BBQ Babs will bring an extra dimension to our offering at The Smoke Haus. We are delighted with the way this has been embraced by our customers so far. As a business, it brings us closer to our customers at all times and that will be fantastic for them and us.

“The fantastic thing about BBQ Babs is, because BBQ Babs is powered by artificial intelligence, she is also learning all the time. That means that she will get to know the needs and wishes of customers more and more intimately as time goes on, giving our customers an even better and more bespoke service as we look to build a truly memorable experience.”

Research firm Gartner suggests that by 2021 more than 50% of businesses will spend more on developing chatbots per annum, than traditional mobile apps. It also suggests that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their engagement with a restaurant without interacting with any of the staff in human form.

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