Over 70% of diners said they’d be willing to use voice automated ordering systems, whether for drive-thru, phone, or dine-in, according to a study by Deloitte. Voice ordering is not only convenient for customers but helpful for restaurants. With a voice ordering system for your restaurant, you can save time and labor, avoid missed calls, and enjoy greater order accuracy and customer loyalty.
We dive deep into the hows and whys of artificial intelligence (AI) restaurant technology for voice ordering to give you the tools you need to make the best decision on this increasingly popular technology.
What Is Voice Ordering for Restaurants?
Voice ordering is straightforward: It’s restaurant AI software that takes a customer’s order in a conversational manner. That means rather than following a menu system like one might do online, the customer just says their order as if talking to a real person, and the software parses it into the appropriate format to pass on to your restaurant point-of-sale (POS) system.
It can also go beyond simply accepting orders to make suggestions and recall past orders. In fact, the most advanced voice ordering systems tie to your customer information to track preferences and even allergies. So, if someone with a nut allergy orders a brownie for dessert, they can be reminded that it contains walnuts and then given the chance to alter their order.
If you want to learn more about POS systems for restaurants, check out our buyer’s guide of the best restaurant POS.
How Does Voice Ordering Work?
Voice ordering for restaurants can work through just about any means where the computer and a customer interact vocally. The most popular options for shopping are Alexa and Google Home, along with mobile apps. However, voice ordering is available for drive-thrus and even on your restaurant website. This makes it a great way to improve your accessibility for those with vision issues.
Benefits of a Voice Ordering System
According to Lightspeed’s State of the Global Hospitality Industry 2022 report, 36% of businesses (except hotels) said new or expanded online ordering was the No. 1 way they improved their businesses. Further, TD Cowen estimates that voice ordering can drive up sales by as much as 15% through suggestive selling and speeding service times by 10 seconds.
Voice ordering can benefit your restaurant in many ways:
- Conversational ordering: Per an Opus Research study, 88% of leaders in the quick-service restaurant industry said being able to order naturally was the top benefit of voice ordering. It allows customers to simply ask for what they want rather than scrolling a menu or following a format predetermined by your POS system.
- Handle multiple phone orders: Ever get so many phone calls during a rush that you put someone on hold and forgot they were there? Voice AI can process multiple calls at once so that customers don’t need to be put on hold or call back later.
- Lets customers order ahead: By ordering ahead, even on the go, customers can save time waiting in line to place orders, and since orders are sent directly to your POS or KDS like any other online order, they are seamlessly integrated into the production queue.
- Saves labor: By letting voice AI take over receiving orders and taking payments, you free up employees to concentrate on food preparation, kitchen management, inventory, and restaurant maintenance.
- Reduces training time: You won’t need to train employees in answering the phone or taking orders through the drive-thru.
- Reduces employee stress: Employees are no longer distracted by phone call orders during rushes or dealing with hangry customers in the drive-thru.
- Increase order accuracy: Voice order technology for restaurants has been found to be more accurate than humans. One restaurant quoted by EHL Insights said they found they could serve 40 cars in 15 minutes with accuracy, increasing revenue between 10% to 20%.
- Personalization: With tie-ins to your CMS and machine learning, voice ordering AIs can recognize repeat users and ask if they want to order “their usual,” repeat last week’s order, or use the same delivery time or payment information. It can also suggest personalized upsells, like onion rings rather than fries, based on past preferences. It can even alert the diner to allergens it may not realize are in the meal they ordered. All this results in increased customer loyalty.
- Increased ticket prices with upselling: Employees can feel awkward upselling to customers, but voice ordering systems do it as a matter of course. A study by Intel found that voice-enabled kiosks raised order sizes by over 30% with suggested add-ons.
Voice Ordering System Challenges
- Expense: Voice ordering systems can cost more than your POS system. Most have custom pricing, and the lowest posted price we found was $89 a month for the simplest phone voice system.
- Discoverability: Unless your customers know they can use voice ordering for your restaurant, you may find the capability underused, especially with devices like Alexa. Voice ordering may also limit the types of food someone orders. After all, diners won’t be perusing a menu of 50 items to find what they want. This can discourage some people from using it. It also means new items might go unnoticed.
- Dialects: A voice ordering system can only understand dialects it’s been trained in. This number increases every year, and machine learning can add to its capabilities. However, if you live in an area with diverse accents, discuss this with the voice ordering service provider to make sure you are covered.
According to a study by UC Davis, people will change their voice when speaking to AI-based devices. In addition, they comprehend devices less the more non-human the AI sounds.
7 Voice Ordering Systems for Restaurants
- VoicePlug: Offers voice AI for phones, drive-thrus, websites, and mobile. The phone app uses natural conversation ordering, while the drive-thru app uses the existing drive-thru infrastructure and natural language processing.
- HazlVoice: Created for phone orders, the Lite Program ($89 per store per month) texts customers a link to your online ordering site. It allows for multiple languages, sub-menus, and call forwarding. The Pro plan has your menu memorized for taking orders itself (currently in Beta).
- SoundHound for Restaurants: This full voice-powered AI assistant has smart answering (greetings, hours, locations, wait times) and smart ordering to handle all of your phone calls.
- Kea: Takes orders via phone. When you sign up for the service, it integrates with your existing POS or online ordering provider. Your number is forwarded to the Kea system, which takes the order and sends it to your POS system.
- ConverseNow: Takes on phone and drive-thru orders, both for restaurants and stores. It serves 1,200+ stores across the US. It integrates with most POS and drive-thru systems and offers a plug-and-play setup with no staff training needed.
- Voix: Lets restaurants take orders from devices like Google Home, Alexa, or phone apps. Once you sign up, it links to your menu to create a conversational map for ordering and creates cloud AI access. It links to your POS for orders and can upsell specials or promotions as well.
- Presto Voice: Handles drive-thru ordering. In May 2023, it was contracted to handle Hardees and Carl’s Jr. drive-thrus across the nation. It provides free installation of its AI technology and even allows for custom voices, including celebrities and characters. It claims a 95% success rate in order taking.
Voice Ordering Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
For customers, it’s often improved service in terms of being able to place orders quickly and accurately, plus the convenience of having their past or regular orders remembered. For restaurants, it’s the ability to take orders more quickly through automation, thus freeing up employees to concentrate on food preparation and service. In addition, voice ordering systems have been shown to increase revenue (through upselling and not dropping phone orders) while decreasing labor costs.
Most AI voice ordering systems have custom rates that depend on how you want to accept orders, your order volume, and the complexity of the orders. We found one service, HazlVoice, which lists its Lite program at $89 per month per store. It’s not restaurant-focused, however, although it can be used as such.
According to voice ordering systems as well as restaurants using voice ordering, the time to consider using an automated ordering system for restaurants that uses voice is when:
- Your staff is consistently too busy to answer phones during rush times
- You have a history of dropped calls or putting customers on hold
- You have problems with accurate ordering
- You are dealing with labor shortage issues
Absolutely! You can provide a way for them to be connected to a live person instead, such as for catering or emergencies.
The most commonly known voice assistants are Alexa, Google Home, and Siri. However, there are apps that also work as voice assistants, and you can add voice ordering to your website, telephone, or mobile app.
Voice ordering systems assist restaurants by taking the burden of answering phones or manning the drive-thru to take customer orders, which allows them to concentrate on food preparation and serving. In most cases, voice ordering results in more accurate orders while still sounding conversational to the customers. It’s been shown to result in higher customer satisfaction and loyal customers. Naturally, the systems are not cheap depending on what you need, but most voice ordering providers say their customers get back in saved labor what they spend on the system.