AI + HI in Your Restaurant’s Operation

AI 02

By Andy Cook

Time, attention, and bandwidth are the rarest resources available to most modern restaurateurs.

I hold two titles at Harbor Foods: Restaurant Operations Advisor & Restaurant Technology Specialist. In other words, I’m an outsourced time and attention span who helps restaurant leaders’ bandwidth by providing insights on trends, regulations, innovations, etc. I aspire to provide context that will help them in their strategies (Operations Advisor) and guidance on selecting and implementing the technology that will best serve their operations (Technology Specialist).

The power and potential of Artificial Intelligence -when strategically applied- has the power and potential to curb your bandwidth challenges by minimizing your time and attention challenges so that you can maximize your inherent HUMAN potential.


Restaurants live and breathe on Human Intelligence and Heart Intelligence (HI), these qualities are irreplaceable. Stated another way, technology isn’t a solution, it’s a tool towards solutions. The best application of technology (especially Artificial Intelligence) is when it creates more room and more opportunities to bring your best human qualities to your business, service, and hospitality.


In this article, I’ll touch on software and services that are using AI to effectively address some of the most challenging aspects of restaurant operations such as recruiting & onboarding, talent/skill development, marketing, security, and telephone answering services.


[The following experiments were conducted using ChatGPT]

Before I introduce you to the companies who are properly incorporating AI into their software, here are things you can do today with an open source AI assistant.

Follow THIS LINK TO CHATGPT and register an account. Once your account is created, navigate to the “ChatGPT 4o” model (found in the upper left of the interface).

New Recipe Ideation: In the prompt field, look for, and tap on the paper clip and share a copy of your menu (image or document). Once loaded, try variations of these prompts:

  • “This is my restaurant’s menu; show me all the ingredients I would find in my kitchen”

This informs ChatGPT what is already on your menu and the ingredients available.

Verify its accuracy, tell it what it got wrong, and what ingredients it may have missed.

  • “Offer me [a number] of new menu ideas I can use these ingredient to make. The equipment I have in my kitchen is ______. The skill level of my kitchen staff is ______.”

Tell it to offer a greater number than you need so that you can select your favorites.

Add key context such as: Daypart, Happy Hour, Vegan/Vegetarian, LTO, Cuisine Type, Optimized for Takeout/Delivery, etc.

  • Pick your favorite(s) and prompt “Provide me with a step-by-step recipe that a new cook could follow”.
  • “Provide me with a brief menu description of no more than ___ words”.
  • “Generate a social media post announcing this new menu item. Give me 3 each for both Facebook and Instagram”.
  • If you’re planning or considering bringing in new ingredients or proteins, let ChatGPT.

Real Time Translation: For best results, use the ChatGPT mobile app for a conversational spoken interaction.

  • Tap the microphone icon in the prompt field and say: “I’m communicating with a _______ speaker. When you hear English, please translate to ______. When you hear _______, translate to English”.
  • By sharing your recipes into the chat, you can help a non-English fluent guest to navigate around dietary or allergen considerations with greater confidence.

Other Free & Open Source Use Cases: Once you get the hang of interacting with ChatGPT (or comparable services), it’s a short journey to utilizing them for a variety of other use cases.

  • Customer Sentiment Analysis: Analyzing your online reviews for positive and negative sentiments and themes to help you amplify the good, and minimize the bad.
  • Data Analytics: Exporting and uploading key reports from your POS for menu and special optimization -down to the daypart and season.


While tracking, researching, and verifying where, how, and why AI is emerging to serve independent restaurant operations, I've found that "AI" is often used as a buzzword. However, I've also found some brilliant AI-powered features that seamlessly address the challenges and aspirations of the independent operators I support.

[NOTE: neither myself or Harbor Foods have any established referral agreement with any of the following 3rd party software or services. We vet technology providers based on their value and efficacy, not by financial kick-backs. Given the opportunity, our standard practice is to negotiate on your behalf to convert potential kick-backs to savings for you.]


“We put a lot of effort into attracting, filtering, and scheduling 10 interviews, and only one person showed up with their shoes on the wrong feet!”


Imagine an AI powered recruiting & onboarding tool that will create and optimize competitive job posts based on a handful of sentences and distribute them to ALL the free job posting sites. It will know when and where you or your managers are available to give interviews. As soon as a prospective applicant submits interest, an AI enhanced chatbot will immediately text them to:

  • Ask the screening questions you wish to pre-qualify (or redirect them to a more suitable open position).
  • Schedule them for a day/time/location you’ve predetermined.
  • Send the applicant reminder text and rescheduling links.
  • All without taking any of yours or your restaurant’s leadership team’s time, attention, or bandwidth.

Now imagine this AI enhanced chatbot following those you hire through onboarding as their HR advisor (and even further to help your team develop the skills you need them to possess).


“Today’s labor shortage isn’t a matter of headcount, it’s now a shortage of skills and a lack of engagement.”


Wouldn’t it be great to have the learning management systems the big chains do, but customized to your brand and standards? ExpandShare provides a flexible AI-powered training and operations platform that is customizable for each restaurant based on their identity. Their services include creating and managing digital training materials, tracking employee progress, and implementing digital checklists to streamline daily operations. They also offer professional services to help convert existing training materials into interactive courses and branded video content.


“Almost ALL of our phone calls are either for information that can be easily found online, or for takeout orders that we’d rather they used our online ordering page for.”

AI Telephone Answering Services:

I’ve shared a link to PopMenu’s AI answering service because they’re doing it well and it’s focused on restaurants, but there are many AI answering services available with comparable features.

These services can field MANY calls concurrently and are built to answer most common inquiries in a natural dialog without the frustration of a phone tree. When revenue opportunity calls are fielded such as “I’d like to order takeout” or “Can I make a reservation?” the service will offer to text them a link to your online ordering platform or reservation service. For easy answer questions like, “What are your hours, or days open?” or “Do you have outdoor dining?” a natural language AI will answer them exactly as you would prefer.

What about the calls that need a human? The service will transfer the call to the main line or to the most appropriate number based on their needs; saving you and your staff from the distracting calls and helping your callers get to the platforms you wish them to land on… all with an online dashboard that will provide detailed reporting of the purpose of your calls so that you can make more strategic choices in an otherwise invisible aspect of your business.


Integrating AI into your restaurant's operations isn't about replacing the invaluable Human Intelligence (HI) and Heart Intelligence (HI) that drive your business. Instead, it's about leveraging AI as a tool to enhance these qualities. By strategically incorporating AI solutions, you can alleviate time and attention constraints, allowing you to focus on what you do best—delivering exceptional service and hospitality. Explore the AI-powered tools mentioned here to streamline your operations, foster skill development, and optimize customer interactions, ultimately creating more opportunities to bring your best human qualities to the forefront of your restaurant.

These are just a handful of examples showcasing effective and relevant applications in AI as it enters our industry in ways that enhance the businesses of our industry’s independent operators. If you would you like to know even more, or kept in the loop on new discoveries in restaurant technology, email Harbor Foodservice’s Restaurant Operations Advisor & Technology Specialist, Andy Cook: