5 Ways Restaurant Voice AI Supports Employees

Great technology is about helping people. Servers and chefs need the best tools to set them up for success.
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At the end of last year, I was asked to make a prediction for 2023. I said this will be the year we see voice technology really come into its own. We’ll see a new kind of conversational AI break away from the awkward pauses and turn-taking we’ve become accustomed to and evolve into something altogether less robotic and more proactive. It will understand context and make suggestions.

Just like natural conversation.

Over the next 12 months, the test ground for this kind of voice AI will undoubtedly be the restaurant space. As it transitions from the lab to the drive thru lane, we’ll see it deal capably with complex questions and queries, tackle difficult accents, enable modifications, and even upsell.

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It’s already becoming clear that voice technology will play a key role in how restaurants – and, in particular, QSRs – are changing how they serve customers. At the same time, it will help restaurant owners serve more customers and drive sales.

But what about restaurant employees?

Too often emerging technologies are viewed as a threat to incumbent staff, but with restaurants missing phone orders and long lines forming at the drive-thru, servers and chefs need the best tools to set them up for success.

Here are just five ways voice AI supports restaurant employees:

  1. Picking up the slack

We’ve all placed a phone order with an employee who sounded busy and harassed, and it’s not uncommon for calls to go completely unanswered during peak periods. At the same time, an economist for the National Restaurant Association, Hudson Riehle, said that 39% of restaurant traffic is bumper-to-bumper at the drive thru.

The message is clear, restaurants sometimes get busier than they can handle. However, whatever way you choose to order, voice automation can help overburdened employees deal with increased demand and free them up to add their personal touch to service.

  1. Tableside assistance

You might not think that voice AI can help with face-to-face tableside interactions, but you’d be wrong.

Having the support of voice AI means the employee isn’t trying to juggle phone orders with dine-in and, secondly, voice-enabled tablets can help customers order additional items, refills, and condiments without having to flag down servers.

Less back-and-forth helps create more fluid, efficient service for both customers and busy hosts.

  1. Retention

Labor shortages in the restaurant industry are no secret, so staff retention is more important than ever. The equation is simple – happy staff stay.

Having good voice technology in a supporting role alleviates the pressures on valuable team members in their kitchen and front-of-house positions, preventing staff churn and the not-insignificant costs associated with regularly training up new employees.

  1. Skills development

Contented workers with a good balance can concentrate on what they do best. Whether it’s greeting and seating customers with grace, learning to manage junior team members, or preparing a killer lunch, staff typically want to hone transferable skills and be part of what makes any restaurant a celebrated environment for customers.

By removing just some of the repetition of order taking or reciting specials, voice technology can help (particularly younger) employees gain more substantive career experience.

  1. Boosts revenue

Typically, restaurant staff are happiest when business is booming and paychecks are rolling in. After a long period of uncertainty for the industry over the pandemic, technology that helps pick up orders that would have otherwise been missed while driving sales with cross-selling and upselling will help deliver revenue and stability.

In a setting where a team can often feel like a family, technology that functions like an extra employee can help keep your real, human workers feel supported and stay consistent in what they’re able to deliver.

Until now, restaurant owners might have been hesitant to rely on voice ordering software. But 2023 will be the year that it breaks through to the mainstream and revolutionizes service for customers, owners, and those highly prized employees.

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Zubin Irani, SoundHound Chief Revenue Officer

About the Author

As Chief Revenue Officer, Zubin Irani is leading SoundHound’s revenue organization across marketing and sales and is responsible for fast-tracking the company’s growth and scalability for rapid global expansion. Zubin brings two decades of organizational growth experience and a passion for expanding teams and growing revenue over a short period of time. Previously, Zubin was CEO of Cprime, Inc., where he led a tenfold revenue increase in less than seven years. Before Cprime, Zubin served as DIRECTV’s youngest Director in its eCommerce business unit. He earned his two MBAs concurrently from Columbia University and University of California Berkeley.

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