KFC launches first AI-enabled outlet in Beijing

A KFC restaurant in Beijing in July 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

Kentucky Fried Chicken launched its first artificial intelligence-enabled store in Beijing on Friday, and the fast-food chain said it plans to further expand its layout of smart restaurants, creating more innovative and interesting dining experiences for customers.

With the co-operation of Baidu Inc, China's largest search engine, KFC started its first smart restaurant in the Financial Street area in Beijing.

At the store, customers are able to take pictures with a machine, which will recognise the diner's face, sex, age, mood and other features, then help to recommend suitable food and set meals and complete the ordering process.

"If the consumer visits the store again and takes a picture with the machine, it will be able to recognise his or her face and show the previous purchase history, remember the customer's dining habits, and help to place an order faster," said Wu Zhongqin, deputy director of the Institute of Deep Learning of Baidu Inc, which helped to develop the technology.

With another machine with an augmented reality, or AR function, customers are able to interact with the machine, change facial expressions by shaking their heads in front of the machine, take photos, and save them to their phones.

In April, KFC, an affiliate of Yum China Holdings Inc, started its first Chinese smart restaurant in Shanghai. The outlet is equipped with intelligent robot ordering, debuting the use of artificial intelligence in chain restaurants.

Zhao Li, general manager of Beijing KFC, said smart restaurants are not only about the cool hardware, but more about providing convenience to consumers.

"Our innovations make use of the cutting-edge technologies and they will help to attract more young consumers who prefer fashionable new things. The digitalization of the restaurant will also help to provide faster and easier services," she said.

"We believe that the restaurant dining experiences must continue to upgrade. With 5,000 stores in China, we plan to expand such services nationwide soon, to adapt to the digital age and enable more consumers to experience enjoyable ordering experiences." Read also: 'God' runs Mark Zuckerberg's AI home

4,500 Chinese tourists gather for Korean fried chicken and beer

  • About 4,500 employees of a Chinese cosmetics firm visiting South Korea as the largest tour group to arrive in the country by plane sat down on Monday for a dinner of fried chicken and beer, a staple made popular in China by a hit Korean television drama.
  • The group, from Aolan International Beauty Group on an employee reward trip, began arriving from Saturday on 158 flights for a seven-day tour and gathered around 750 outdoor tables for the dinner, according to officials in Incheon.
  • The number of Chinese visitors to South Korea rose 17 per cent in the first two months of the year to 1.07 million, and South Korea expects a record total of 8 million this year, lured in part by the popularity of Korean cultural exports, such as TV shows, movies and K-pop music.
  • The combination of South Korean chicken and beer became popular in China with the Korean TV show "My Love From the Star," a romantic comedy about a famous actress and her alien boyfriend that aired in 2013 and 2014.