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03/30/2022

Marco's Pizza Tests Automated Voice-to-Text Ordering Using Conversational AI

Company's proprietary voice-to-text ordering system uses conversational artificial intelligence (AI) which yielded 100% order accuracy in initial beta testing as well as increased employee and customer satisfaction.  
Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor (Hotels)
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Marco's Pizza recently announced a 50-store pilot of its proprietary voice-to-text ordering system with the goal of a systemwide rollout by the end of 2022. The speech-enabled application uses conversational artificial intelligence (AI) which yielded 100% order accuracy in initial beta testing as well as increased employee and customer satisfaction.  

The initial voice-to-order beta test started in Summer 2021 before moving into the pilot. Designed to provide a seamless interaction with customers, the system receives phone orders via voice and automatically translates the order via text into the point-of-sale system alerting team members to begin filling the order – saving time, decreasing call abandonment rates, and improving speed and order accuracy – all to maximize the customer experience. Unique to this technology is the use of conversational AI, which simulates a human-like conversation and can convert voice across multiple digital channels and technology platforms. This technology creates a personalized experience for the guest and feels very different from a basic chatbot interaction. The technology understands both English and Spanish as well as a variety of accents, dialects, and colloquialisms.

Despite technology advancements, many guests find it easier and more convenient to pick up the phone and place an order. This technology can accommodate those guests and create a much better experience using conversational AI. As Marco's digital sales continue to soar – tripling over the past four years – the adoption of this technology will play a significant role in growing the brand's digital presence to its target of 85%.  

"There are places where AI makes sense within the business – where it creates a better experience for both team members and guests," said Rick Stanbridge, Sr. Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Marco's Pizza. "Not only does this technology offer franchisees a cost-effective, practical solution to reduce labor costs and drive results, but it provides support to team members while strengthening the guest experience."

With the use of this technology, the guest experience is elevated first and foremost, and team members no longer have to deal with the frustrations that come with busy nights when there's an influx in orders, kitchen noise distractions, and the challenge of juggling multiple tasks. As a People-First organization, Marco's understands that when team members are satisfied, so are guests.

The voice-to-text initiative is one of many projects Marco's is embarking on after announcing the investment of millions of dollars in technology innovations through the next few years as it grows to be the fourth largest brand in pizza. Such projects include the continued adoption of third-party delivery, in which Marco's has experienced 610% growth in just two years, utilizing AI for generating automated delivery promise times, vetting and testing robotic kitchen innovations, ghost kitchens, and new operational equipment.

"There are a lot of technologies on our radar, but our strategy is to hotly pursue those that we can bring to market quickly and will have the biggest impact on customers, team members, and franchisees," said Stanbridge.

The 1,000-plus unit brand continues to see record-breaking double-digit same-store-sales increases year-over-year and is on track to reach $1B in annual systemwide sales in 2022. As a result, eager and sophisticated entrepreneurs and multi-unit operators are flocking to the franchise opportunity.

The brand continues to grow at a rapid pace, setting a development goal of 1,500 units open by the end of 2023. According to FRANdata, a leading research and advisory firm that analyzes the franchise market, Marco's 2021 FUND Score is in the top 1% of all evaluated franchise systems and is among the top three scores for all QSR brands. The Top 50% of Marco's franchised stores generated $1,059,574 AUV for 2020*.