Online Learning for Recommendations at Grubhub

Alex Egg

We propose a method to easily modify existing offline Recommender Systems to run online using Transfer Learning. Online Learning for Recommender Systems has two main advantages: quality and scale. Like many Machine Learning algorithms in production if not regularly retrained will suffer from Concept Drift. A policy that is updated frequently online can adapt to drift faster than a batch system. This is especially true for user-interaction systems like recommenders where the underlying distribution can shift drastically to follow user behaviour. As a platform grows rapidly like Grubhub, the cost of running batch training jobs becomes material. A shift from stateless batch learning offline to stateful incremental learning online can recover, for example, at Grubhub, up to a 45x cost savings and a +20% metrics increase. There are a few challenges to overcome with the transition to online stateful learning, namely convergence, non-stationary embeddings and off-policy evaluation, which we explore from our experiences running this system in production.

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