Technology 2 min read

KFC Adds Robot Servers and AI Menus to Chinese Locations

Known primarily for their fried chicken and sometimes awkward television ads, KFC has long dominated the fried chicken market across the U.S. But they still want to expand heavily in other countries including China. With fears of automation looming, the company is counting on robots to protect their profits.

With this automation push, KFC plans to open thousands more locations in the coming months. ¦ Shutterstock

With this automation push, KFC plans to open thousands more locations in the coming months. ¦ Shutterstock

As 2019 begins, automation is everywhere. Alibaba has an automated warehouse in China and there’s even a robot designed to flip hamburgers. And though one study says only 14% of jobs are at risk, many still fear the worst.

For a popular American food chain, automation holds the key to maintaining aggressive growth.

Credit: Fortune

Planned Growth Despite Global Trade Issues

Under U.S. President Donald Trump, the U.S. saw slowed trading with China. However, recent news from U.S. outlets and from Chinese outlets suggest that this trade war may come to an end soon.

This is good news for Yum China Holdings Inc., the company that operates as China’s largest fast-food chain. They also operate the Pizza Hut and KFC brands in China. In a time of economic uncertainty for many companies, Yum China wants to expand.

The CEO Joey Wat elaborated on the company’s plans in Shanghai on Tuesday, March 5:

“We are in 1,200 cities in China, which seems like a lot, but there’s another thousand cities in China with no KFC. There’s huge space for growth.”

But this expansion means that the company will be opening stores at its second-fastest pace in 30 years. This is where the company plans to leverage automation to maintain growth.

Automation as a Tool for Improving Rural Infrastructure

Yum China leads against other fast food chains in China including McDonald’s. In an effort to bolster this position, they plan to expand using automated features including:

  • Robotic arms to deliver ice cream
  • Mobile-phone operated music akin to retro jukeboxes
  • Facial recognition payments

These innovative integrations help cut operating costs for the company. With this in mind, Yum China sees the potential for around 20,000 outlets in lesser developed cities.

Wat described the company as a “bellwether for economic development” since KFC locations often bring other restaurants and shops once they open a new location. In this regard, the automation still serves to work alongside humans as opposed to outright replacing them.

Of course, the reality may prove a bit less idealistic than the proposed plans as they unravel.

Read More: How Automation Will Double the Number of Jobs it Destroys

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Juliet Childers

Content Specialist and EDGY OG with a (mostly) healthy obsession with video games. She covers Industry buzz including VR/AR, content marketing, cybersecurity, AI, and many more.

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    Lisa Gaillard March 25 at 7:44 am GMT

    This convinced me that there is a bright future for robots in restaurants.

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