As restaurants increasingly face front-of-house labor challenges, many are turning to voice commerce technologies to fulfill the roles once filled by humans in customer-facing roles. Now restaurants and technology providers are extending their artificial intelligence (AI) conversational efforts to the reservation process.
For example on Wednesday (June 29), Whitbread PLCparent company of UK steak-centric restaurant chain Beefeater announced a partnership with voice assistant company PolyAI to implement an automated table reservation service at all of the brand’s 173 locations.
“The introduction and launch of the new Digital Host by PolyAI in our Beefeater restaurants is an exciting development for our business and comes at an important time,” Simon Ewins, director of Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants, in a statement. “It has allowed our teams to focus on what they do best: providing excellent guest care.”
The space for voice ordering has also grown. While restaurant brands have been testing their own such features for some time now in conjunction with conversational AI technology providers, third-party aggregators are now entering the space. For example, in May, Uber Eats announced an integration with Google Assistant to enable voice commands.
“Just say ‘OK Google’ and ask your phone to order a meal from a restaurant on Uber Eats,” says Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in a May blog post. “Voice Ordering will roll out globally in English this summer, with more languages to follow.”
Meanwhile, restaurants are leveraging voice ordering integrations at the drive-thru, in consumers’ own cars, and at home through their smart speakers. McDonald’s has tested voice delivery at 24 drive-thru locations in Illinois, though the technology is underperforming McDonald’s standards to expand the technology, according to a recent BTIG report.
BurgerFi, a Florida-based fast-casual chain with approximately 140 physical and virtual locations, offers in-car orders in 5G-enabled cars.
Research from PYMNTS’ 2021 How We Eat Playbook, made in collaboration with Carat of Fiservwhich was based on a survey of a balanced panel of more than 5,200 U.S. consumers, found that 20% of consumers say they are “very” or “extremely” interested” in using their voice to buy food and groceries.
Victor Matchieowner of sandwich chain in Aloha, Oregon Monkey’s Subsexplained in an interview with PYMNTS how using an artificial intelligence (AI) voice assistant from a speech recognition company SoundHound has enabled the brand to deliver a better customer experience through its call-in-order channel.
“In the past, customers had to wait in line for telephone orders to pick up their sandwich,” says Matchie. “With the voice ordering assistant taking the order and the customer clicking a link to pay by credit card, all we have to do is make the food and then put it up front where everyone picks up their orders. …They just grab the order and go.”
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