Innovators are seeing the potential to shape the way consumers place their orders at quick-service restaurants (QSRs) through digital technology. Bensen AI Co-founder Adam Sandler has been working with fellow Co-founder David Xiao on intelligent voice ordering. The high usage of voice – which is one of the fastest-growing adopted consumer technologies – “presented a tremendous opportunity” for ordering at restaurants due to “the speed and convenience voice allows to the consumer,” Sandler told PYMNTS in an interview.
Bensen provides a digital voice-enabled alternative to pulling up to the drive-thru window to place an order. Through their solution, which is deployed on Google Assistant and Alexa, consumers can ask their voice assistant to, say, place an order from their favorite coffee place. If the company works with that coffee place, its servers will process that request, learn the consumer’s favorite order and confirm it with the consumer. If the consumer has a credit card saved with Amazon or Google, the company can charge the card with permission, so the consumer doesn’t have to go through the extra step of entering payment information during the ordering process.
The company integrates with a restaurant’s current ordering system, as well its loyalty program, on the backend. When a consumer places an order by voice, it comes through the same ordering channel that an online or mobile order would. The employee or wait staff wouldn’t know the difference between a voice or an online order. Bensen also trains its proprietary natural language processing technology based on the menu data restaurants give them, and works with those restaurants to develop a tone of experience, ensuring the system’s responses are coherent with the client’s brand image.
The Voice AI Market
Bensen is currently targeting quick-service restaurant (QSR) chains that have drive-thrus. Xiao noted the company is excited about where the drive-thru market is headed in general. He pointed to the example of Chipotle, which is starting to roll out drive-thrus to some of their locations, which are different from traditional drive-thrus. In Chipotle’s case, there isn’t an order-taking window, and the system allows orders to be placed ahead of time, either online or through a mobile app.
“That’s kind of … the future that we see as well,” Xiao said, adding he believes that, in addition to online and app ordering, voice ordering will be one of the main drivers. The company is targeting both regional and national businesses with a minimum of 10 locations. The service is currently live with a few customers, as Bensen conducts proof of concepts with other customers. From a customer experience perspective, Xiao claims the service makes the ordering process faster and more convenient.
The company has conducted timed studies, finding that it can take over a minute to make a repeat order through a mobile app, while it takes only about 15 seconds through its service. On the restaurant side, the main benefit is increased sales from repeat customers and reduced friction to attract more repeat usage. The restaurant also gains an operational benefit of not needing a person to take an order, as it comes in digitally.
Beyond Bensen, companies such as Valyant AI have spent years developing a proprietary conversational AI platform that focuses on making the drive-thru faster at quick-service restaurants (QSRs). At the same time, voice commerce has accelerated dramatically over the year leading up to last December: Twenty-eight percent of all shoppers now own a voice-activated device, according to the PYMNTS Remote Payments Study, and 27 percent had used one to complete a transaction in the past seven days.
From Bensen AI to Valyant, digital innovators are tapping into voice assistants with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to bring convenience to diners and streamline operations for QSRs in the age of voice commerce.