Consumers, operators nervous about AI related to food

According to recent consumer data, more consumers are nervous about the future of AI than they are excited. They’re open, however, to AI in certain foodservice applications.

Rachel French, Contributing writer

December 26, 2023

2 Min Read
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At a Glance

  • Consumers and operators are more nervous than excited about AI in the foodservice industry.
  • Top concerns about AI include privacy, job displacement and ethical issues.
  • Despite concerns, AI is seen as having potential to improve the foodservice industry.

Only about a tenth of consumers (13%) said they’re excited about the future of artificial intelligence (AI) in society, while more than a third (34%) said they’re nervous, according to new consumer and operator data released in a recent Datassential webinar.

“Most people are straddling both the excited and nervous space in terms of thinking about AI in the future, but more consumers and more operators are nervous about AI than those who are excited,” Huy Do, research and insights manager at Datassential, said in its Food & AI: Theory & Practice webinar.

Another third of consumers (35%) said they’re both nervous and excited, while 17% said they’re indifferent.

The survey, which was aimed at operators and consumers, was conducted by Datassential in September.

Looking at operators, 8% said they’re excited about AI technology, compared to 26% who said they’re nervous. About a quarter (23%) said they’re both nervous and excited, and another 23% said they’re indifferent.

When consumers were asked to identify what concerns they have related to AI, the majority (73%) said they’re worried about privacy and security issues. A slightly smaller amount (70%) said they’re worried the technology will cause people to lose their jobs, and 67% said they’re worried about ethical and moral issues surrounding AI.

The top concern reported by 63% of operators is that AI could lead to loss of “human touches” in cooking or negatively impact customer service. Half of the operators surveyed said they’re worried AI could displace human workers or drastically affect the skills and responsibilities workers need.

Despite the concerns around AI, its influence is growing. In some cases, consumers and operators alike are willing to welcome the technology into the food landscape.

Datassential’s survey found 63% of consumers said they read or watched something related to AI in the past 6 months, while 36% had a conversation with friends and family about AI, and 34% personally interacted with AI technology.

When it comes to AI’s potential impact on the foodservice industry, 36% of operators said the food industry will be unrecognizable in 5 to 10 years because of AI technology.

For operators, areas of interest for using AI technology include using AI platforms to monitor food safety and quality control (61%), using AI to monitor waste management (63%), and using AI for nutrition and allergen analysis (62%).

Interestingly, 27% of operators feel AI will be better than humans at creating recipes and preparing food, while 24% of operators feel AI will be better than humans at customer service.

Consumers agree that using AI in foodservice to monitor food safety is a good idea, with 50% reporting they find the idea appealing.

What’s more, 70% of consumers said they like the idea of a restaurant using an AI-powered chatbot to take drive-thru, mobile or digital orders—a technology that’s already being employed at a number of fast-food chains, including Wendy’s, Del Taco, White Castle, McDonald’s and Panera, among others.

About the Author(s)

Rachel French

Contributing writer

Rachel French joined Informa’s Health & Nutrition Network in 2013. Her career in the natural products industry started with a food and beverage focus before transitioning into her role as managing editor of Natural Products Insider, where she covered the dietary supplement industry. French left Informa Markets in 2019, but continues to freelance for both FBI and NPI.

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