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From Reservations to Ordering, Gen AI Took Over Restaurants in 2023

Gen AI Took Over Restaurants in 2023

In 2023, generative artificial intelligence began to make its way into many different parts of the restaurant industry, across the back- and front-of-house, boosting efficiency and effectiveness.

Earlier this month, for instance, McDonald’s announced a partnership with Google Cloud, through which the quick-service restaurant giant aims to leverage the latter’s generative AI and cloud technology to make operations more efficient and to improve the customer experience. Specifically, the fast-food chain intends to use the technology for back-of-house tasks and, starting next year, to deploy new software for its digital platforms.

Restaurants and solution providers alike are also using generative AI to automate the often labor-intensive voice order-taking process, be it at the drive-thru or on the phone. In June, QSR brand Wendy’s began testing Google Cloud’s large language models for taking voice orders at its drive-thrus. Earlier this month, SoundHound announced the acquisition of voice technology company SYNQ3 to speed the development of new generative AI voice ordering capabilities.

As Krishna Gupta, then-interim CEO of Presto, said earlier this year in a conversation with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, voice AI in drive-thru is progressing rapidly.

“With OpenAI specifically and large language models in particular, our job is to integrate that into our existing product workflow and make things faster, more personalized, and provide capabilities that frankly weren’t there before,” he said. “All those things matter in the drive-thru.”

The technology is also making its way into the restaurant reservations process. Booking HoldingsOpenTable has added generative AI capabilities, having announced in March the launch of a plug-in for ChatGPT to power restaurant recommendations via the chatbot.

Generative AI also informs how consumers choose where to order. Reports have shown both Uber Delivery and DoorDash testing chatbots this year to provide personalized recommendations and to enhance the ordering process.

Consumers are engaging with these options. The September edition of PYMNTS Intelligence’s “Consumer Inflation Sentiment Report,” titled “Consumers Know What AI Is — Not How It’s Integrated Into Their Daily Lives,” drew from a survey of more than 2,300 U.S. consumers. It found that 58% of participants had received AI-powered recommendations from a food delivery service.

Overall, businesses are looking toward generative AI to boost their performance going forward. According to data cited in the latest installment of PYMNTS’ “Generative AI Tracker®,” “What Generative AI Has in Store for the Retail Industry,” created in collaboration with AI-ID, 78% of business leaders rank generative AI as the most impactful emerging technology over the next three to five years.

Overall, automation is picking up steam, as Jessica Bryan, vice president of marketing at NCR, noted in the October edition of PYMNTS’ “Digital-First Banking Tracker® Series Report,” “The Restaurant of the Future Is Open. Will Diners Bite?

“In the next decade, we believe that restaurant brands will drive fast-paced growth by owning the experience in new ways,” Bryan said. “… Advances in digital and automation technology can help liberate restaurant staff from manual tasks, which not only makes their jobs easier and more enjoyable but also gives them more quality time to interact with guests.”

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