No people? No problem, at least in the fast food industry. The latest trend in technology among big chains like McDonald’s, Wingstop, and Chipotle is AI-powered virtual assistants. Such assistants can hold a conversation with customers, offer suggestions for customized orders, and fill in the labor gap for short-staffed locations. Are you ready to order? Because it just became faster, easier, and a whole bunch less human.
In 2023 the food industry staff shortage still rages on, post-pandemic, leaving restaurant owners and operators at a bit of a loss, staff-wise, says Business Insider. According to QSR Magazine., chains have chosen technology that supplies customers with both speed and accuracy and a lighter bottom line to stay ahead of demand. Although purchasing the technology might be costly, the long-term savings outweigh the initial costs, says the article, even costs associated with staff recruitment and maintenance.
AI Voice Bots in Restaurants: Who’s Using Them?
AI voice bots have been gaining in popularity, with pilot programs across the county. Wingstop, Domino’s, Blake’s Lotaburger, and Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza are a few more chains using the bots, says FastCausal. According to the article, companies like ConverseNow’s voice bots take orders over the phone, speak both English and Spanish, and offer personalized recommendations. To make better use of non-bot staff, these AIs free up answering the phone, as well as training new hires for ordering. Bots are also good at upselling, with automatic and dynamic tactics, says the article. Another positive, because of the inherent consistency of an AI voice, customers will get an automated “smile,” even in the busiest or most inconvenient of times to make an order, says the Wall Street Journal.
According to the State of Restaurant Industry Report by the National Restaurant Association, 58% of restaurant owners will begin to use AI technology like conversation bots, making it more common in 2023, says Insider. ConverseNow is operational in 1,200 stores in 46 states so far, in both phone and drive-thru capacities, says FastCausal.
ConverseNow is one of several tech company on the rise. Restaurant management systems company, HungerRush, has now developed software for restaurants that detects frustration, confusion, or annoyance in customers’ voices while ordering. If detected, the bot sends the customer directly to the restaurant where they can be helped by human staff, says Wall Street Journal. Some customers will always prefer human interaction; however, restaurant owners are priming the public to become more and more self-sufficient when it comes to getting their food, first through voice bots, ordering online, and eventually having the entire process go digital, says Wall Street Journal.
The days of teenage cashier trainees and frazzled, overworked employees doing 19 tasks at once will soon be a thing of the past. Voice bots, robotic food-making arms, and loyalty programs via phones are the wave of the future. This year and moving forward, ready your digital tools to get food in a world where we are greeted, served, and checked out by artificial intelligence.