How AI is redefining the guest experiences in Quick Service Restaurants?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has changed the face of every business, big and small. The quick-service industry is no different. The benefits of AI are more evident in the quick-service world as this technology has unlocked new ways to leverage the extensive data sets generated with advanced AI tools. Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) that have implemented some form of digital transformation as a part of their business see a huge opportunity to offer intelligent engagement to their guests, compared to those unprepared during an unpredictable year.
For the QSR industry, with annual sales touching $799 billion annually and the market size forecasted to reach $296.55 billion in the U.S. alone, AI solutions don’t just bring a potential for new financial success; but also offer concrete competitive advantages.
After a year of uncertainty for the entire quick-service industry caused by the pandemic, it is encouraging to see how QSRs embrace AI and grow smarter during these turbulent times. Now is the time more important than ever for the players in the QSR space to foray into this quintennial technology to improve customer experience and save on costs.
How AI will enhance the restaurant experience for guests
Digital technologies are undeniably streamlining everything from ordering to inventory, simplifying work for people at every level of the operation. These technologies—especially those powered by AI, will cause massive implications for every aspect of the business, most notably for the workers and consumers. Restaurants and food joints can boost sales and delight customers by implementing AI technology.
Quick service restaurants have always been open to new technologies and experimented with them. However, with the latest innovations, the industry will likely move away from legacy tactics like asking whether you want fries with your order to complex algorithms knowing that knows you do. These new tech trends can play a crucial role in aligning critical business operations. Let’s see how these recent tech trends can play a pivotal role in aligning essential business operations. Here are some existing and emerging examples.
#1 Voice Ordering
With voice assistants growing in popularity, the tasks they can help users accomplish using voice-enabled ordering with Amazon Echo (Alexa) or Google Home APIs are reaching far and wide.
Customers have been using virtual assistants to search for restaurants for quite some time. But, voice ordering via smart devices is a new technology gaining popularity where guests can order on the go, for example, while they are still reaching their destination. This technology has become more far-ranging, not just from the customer-facing front. Voice ordering could also be implemented at self-service kiosks or drive-throughs, allowing guests to place orders conversationally—maintaining a necessary social distance, a great safety measure in the pandemic age.
Voice assistant technology could take a customer’s voice order and enter it in your PoS as with ordering via any other ordering channel you offer. Moreover, because it’s AI-driven, the voice assistant ordering system would ‘learn’ and continually improve based on the actual orders and spoken language.
#2 Kiosks that recognize and personalize your orders
Imagine your favorite cafe knows your favorite coffee drink depending on the time of the day you place an order. Similarly, what if your favorite quick-serve staff recognizes your ‘usual’ lunch. Thanks to AI, it is possible to avoid the line and get the same personalized treatment you get at a kiosk today.
While ordering kiosks has become relatively common in various restaurants, some restaurants take that experience further. KFC, for example, is experimenting with kiosks with facial recognition technology that use a camera to recognize their regular and repeat customers and tailor their experience based on previous order history and preferences.
#3 Marketing Automation
While self-order technology and facial recognition might be a little far-fetched option for all restaurants, there are many ways one can use AI to help personalize the guest experience. Online ordering and digital marketing are two areas where restaurants commonly collect guest data to provide personalized service, from highly curated recommendations to targeted marketing.
One common place where most restaurants can implement AI today is in their digital marketing plans. With many automation tools at their disposal, it is much easier to send out marketing emails and targeted ads to the right audience at the right time to maximize views, click-through rates, and more.
It is possible to retarget recent visitors with the right automated marketing tools, encouraging them to become repeat guests and upsell promotions that might interest them.
#4 Optimize delivery process in real-time
Food delivery has become a norm and a must for customers and restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of new strains and variants, this trend doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon. As food delivery gains popularity, optimizing delivery routes has become more important to ensure speed, efficiency, and food quality. The reason why many restaurants are turning to AI is to help their delivery personnel optimize their delivery processes.
One of the most common applications of AI technology here can help food delivery personnel find the best and fastest routes for making multiple deliveries in a single trip. The delivery executives can also utilize map data to avoid traffic to ensure fresh food is delivered on time. This tool can also come in handy to keep the guests in the loop about their orders and coordinates—like how delivery platforms allow customers to follow along on a map and get updates when their order status is delivered.
#5 Data-driven predictions and insights
The power of data lies in its ability to bring real insights and make near-accurate predictions. McDonald’s, for example, puts its historical data to use by analyzing what customers ordered and when to anticipate rushes and even predict what dish would be most prevalent during a given time of day. By enabling this technology, stores can forecast orders, and reduce wait times by 30 seconds on average. In the drive-through ordering experiences order time typically only lasts a few minutes. In so many ways, restaurants can use this kind of predictive technology: to manage inventory, staffing, sales, menu pricing, roll out special offers, and more. The larger the POS system, the more data they have access to – for making better predictions and recommendations.
Undoubtedly, a restaurant sector driven by insights can better understand its customers. When the information gathered through PoS terminals is combined with location-specific scoring, it can precisely analyze the buying behavior and inventory needs. AI technology has identified trends and solved problems with this ability to provide real-time business intelligence. With the additional help of 3rd party solutions to process this data, a restaurant can create more personalized customer interactions. All this can have a direct impact on maximizing profits and customer delight.
While adoption of these technologies is slow, the bottom line is that it’s earned its place in the restaurant industry’s future. Restaurant owners are now beginning to see the potential of AI is changing the way they do business. But it is undoubtedly clear that with the assistance of AI, the industry can gain the tools needed to deliver intelligent engagement to their customers and build profit margins through data-driven insights. AI in Quick Service Restaurant’s is here to stay with many benefits for independent restaurants that embrace the trend.