Is this a taste of the future? Pizza Hut has installed an AI-powered mood detector device at a few of its outlets that studies the facial cues of customers and then recommends a pizza. For example, if you are angry, it will suggest Mazedaar Makhani Paneer for vegetarians and Nawabi Murg Makhani for non-vegetarians. If you are happy, it will ask you to go for the Ultimate Tandoori Veggie Pizza or the Dhabe Da Keema.
The mood-gauging device is installed for a limited period in select restaurants across Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Chennai. All you need to do is stand in front of the device, and look into the screen. The device uses a statistical model that detects facial expressions through eye movements, frowns and other cues, and analyses these to gauge mood.
The pizza chain says this is being done to enhance the in-restaurant dining experience. “At Pizza Hut, we believe that dining is more than just eating; it’s about the entire experience. With our new AI-powered mood detector, we’re taking that experience to the next level,” says Aanandita Datta, Chief Marketing Officer, Pizza Hut India.
Mood and Food
But is there really any science behind these recommendations? Or is it just gimmicky marketing? Ask nutritionist and author Kavita Devgan, and she says, “Mood and food are definitely connected. Hats off to Pizza Hut for thinking of using the connection between the two for marketing.”
Having said that, Devgan says that nutritionists typically connect food and mood for healthier outcomes. “If we are trying to settle or calm someone’s mood, we would suggest comfort foods. Dairy is a wonderfully calming ingredient, and that’s why often kids are asked to have curd and sugar before an exam. While dairy calms you down, sugar makes you happy.”
Junk food like pizza, especially loaded with cheese, boosts serotonin, but only for a bit, says Devgan. So definitely, it can change your mood. “But I would rather use mood and food science to create comfort rituals at home. For instance, carbs and protein combined, say in a khichdi, again deliver a serotonin boost,” says Devgan.
Sanjay Sarma, founder of SSARMA Consults, a boutique branding and communication advisory, feels that anything AI-generated would do better in a virtual space than a physical space. Pizzas are more takeaway items. “Ideally, if they had four or five engaging questions on the app and then a pizza recommendation, it would have been more interesting. In a restaurant, you look for a more humanised experience than AI,” he says.