The saga of fast-casuals increasingly adopting artificial intelligence continues.
It seems almost daily, another restaurant is testing or implementing voice AI to take over phone and drive-thru orders.
The reasoning remains consistent across the board, “to deal with labor shortages and free up staff time so they can focus on in-person customer service” or “to upsell and never miss a call.”
Over the past few years, various voice AI-recognition companies have come forward as leaders in the space, continuing to ink deals with restaurants looking to streamline off-premises operations. This includes tech companies like Presto Automation, Kea, ConverseNow and SoundHound—to name a few.
One of the largest in the space is SoundHound, which recently acquired SYNQ3 to expand its customer base to over 10,000 signed locations.
But the latest for the tech company is partnering with Jersey Mikes, to integrate voice AI ordering in 50 of its locations.
Customers who place an order via phone call at these locations will now converse with AI rather than a human employee. The AI answers 100 percent of calls and can take multiple orders at once.
“AI is becoming an important part of supporting restaurant staff,” said Scott Scherer, chief information officer of Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems Inc.
According to SoundHound, the voice assistant is optimized for natural language speech. The company claims Jersey Mike’s customers won’t have to modify their language or interact awkwardly with the software, rather, “they can just speak as they would to another person.”
In addition, the technology has the ability to answer menu questions such as specials or promotions, as well as provide information on opening times, parking and allergens.
“More than ever, restaurant customers are ordering for pick-up and delivery, and to keep them coming back businesses need to provide a slick, hassle-free experience,” said Keyvan Mohajer CEO and co-founder of SoundHound AI. “Technology is now a critical part of that.”
AI voice of the future
A recent study by SoundHound found that nearly 8 in 10 regular diners in the U.S. believe that most food ordering will be handled by AI voice assistants in the next few years.
The industry is certainly moving towards this trend. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t discrepancies. McDonald’s for example, has been testing AI-powered voice bots at select drive-thrus since 2019, after acquiring voice AI system Apprente. Viral TikTok’s have surfaced, showing voice bots messing up orders and frustrating customers.
However, with AI advancing speech recognition, similar incidents could happen less frequently. Looking ahead, as more and more restaurants adopt the AI trend, perhaps ordering through a human over the phone or drive-thru will become a relic of the past.