TGI Fridays’ quest to reinvent happy hour (and itself) with chatbots and IoT

To return to relevancy in an increasingly digital world, the casual dining chain is developing chatbots and experimenting with bar-top tablets, personalized TV services and other IoT technologies to lure more millennials to its restaurants.

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You've been on the road all day when a reprieve comes from your smartphone in the form of a ping from the local TGI Fridays, inviting you to pop in for half-price happy hour cocktails. Wearily, you coax your car there and go straight to the bar, hop on a stool and punch in your cocktail order on the tablet interface flashing on the bar top. An electronic coaster with your name appears, assuring you that your drink won't be confused with someone else's as the corporate crowd steadily swells.

You use your smartphone to take a picture of a TV, which funnels the sound from the baseball game playing on it through your smartphone, granting you your own personal viewing experience. You kick back and wait for your beverage. Life is good and about to get better.

None of the 900-plus TGI Fridays worldwide offer these services yet but they may in the near future if Sherif Mityas has his way. The TGI Fridays CIO and vice president for strategy and brand initiatives is testing those technologies and more in a mock restaurant that serves as a launching pad for digital tools that could redefine casual dining in a world where more millennials cook at home or order from quick-service chains. Fridays must find a way to instill more loyalty among smartphone-toting consumers.

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"How do you take that in the digital world, where people aren’t talking as much but they’re definitely looking at their phones, and walking around and they're socially integrated virtually and digitally," Mityas told CIO.com at the CIO 100 conference in Colorado Springs last week. "How does Fridays play in that world and be part of the consideration set that Fridays is cool again and connected to me? And are they the place I want to eat somewhere and have a drink or stay home and have it delivered? That’s the next frontier for us."

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