- AI applications simplify restaurant management by automating tasks like guest order-taking
- Revolutionary voice AI technology has helped restaurants overcome labor shortages and become a long-term solution for guest experience by offering fast, accurate and personalized service
- AI data analytics programs automatically collect and evaluate essential information like guest ordering trends, enabling operators to profit from these insights without needing to manually crunch the numbers
Successfully operating a profitable quick-service restaurant (QSR) franchise is no simple task even under the best of circumstances, and the current economic climate promises even more challenges. Staggering labor shortages, rising food costs and stiff competition from other food-service outlets make the restaurant industry one of the most difficult enterprises to succeed in.
Virtual ordering assistants powered by voice-based artificial intelligence (voice AI) provide a singular solution to all of these problems. Voice AI doubles productivity during busy hours, increases average ticket up to 30%, and boosts same-store revenues by as much as 20% through personalized guest service and automated, dynamic upselling. Keep reading to learn why restaurant voice AI is one of the most important tech solutions QSR operators should consider.
Problems facing restaurant management in 2023
Restaurant owners have a more difficult job than ever: in addition to the fundamentals like building and overseeing a marketing strategy, managing cash flow and onboarding new hires, operators also must somehow devise a business plan accounting for disrupted supply chains, increasingly precarious restaurant finances and growing consumer demand. The COVID pandemic and the coinciding Great Resignation devastated the food-service sector, as lockdowns cost restaurants much of their consumer base and unprecedented quit rates sapped them of some of their best employees.
Yes, the negative financial impact of these events is significant, but that doesn’t mean that owners and franchisors are doomed to fail. Technology solutions like voice AI play an increasingly important role in keeping restaurants operational and financially sustainable, so transitioning from traditional restaurant management strategies to a tech-based approach should help undo some of the damage caused by the pandemic and the ongoing labor shortages.
How AI is revolutionizing restaurant management strategies
Once dismissed as little more than a novelty or a pipe dream, artificial intelligence (AI) is now an established and truly unprecedented component of standard business operations across industries. In fact, current data forecasts that AI will reach a $500 billion market by 2024. Restaurant AI applications like virtual ordering assistants are already at work solving some of the most challenging problems in the food-service sector, compensating for short-staffing, providing access to an unprecedented stream of essential data and much more.
Long-term labor shortages and low employee retention are among the most difficult challenges in the restaurant business. Regardless of advantages like market share, menu quality or a favorable reputation, it’s incredibly demanding to compensate for a lack of cooks in the kitchen or front-of-house workers in the dining room. Rising labor costs also mean QSR operators may be forced to choose between prioritizing kitchen staff over FOH workers, or vice versa, in cases where they may not be able to afford both.
Restaurant AI reduces employee turnover and improves employee retention by lightening the burden on team members who are stressed out from constant multitasking. For example, unfilled job openings or no-shows might require a cashier to help out in the back-of-house while still covering their usual assignments. Voice AI ordering platforms allow short-staffed franchises to operate at full capacity, diminishing the likelihood that a restaurant’s staff will feel overworked. Virtual assistants accomplish this goal by executing order-taking duties across all channels, thereby filling in unstaffed positions and allowing team members to prioritize other duties.
Customer retention is a cornerstone of effective restaurant operations. Businesses get nearly 65% of their traffic from return visits, and increasing retention figures by just 5% boosts profit margins anywhere from 25% to an incredible 95%. AI ordering assistants contribute to a satisfying customer experience through consistent, personalized guest service.
For example, unlike stressed-out team members, AI ordering assistants won’t purposely neglect to answer the phone when they’re too busy or it’s near closing, or miss calls altogether due to guests hanging up from busy signals and long hold times. Voice AI ordering platforms don’t merely execute simple, scripted actions or offer limited, canned responses: ordering assistants are sophisticated conversationalists who pick up on context clues, read between the lines and refine their algorithms with each order—all in real-time.
Voice AI ordering assistants gradually learn to recommend relevant order suggestions and the most appropriate upsells based on prior guest orders, popular menu items and ongoing special offers. AI ordering assistants record multiple guest orders simultaneously across all existing ordering channels, so guests can enjoy a pleasurable dining experience without excessive wait times.
Drive-thru orders have always been a staple revenue stream for QSRs, and the social-distancing practices intended to slow down the spread of COVID helped stimulate a surge in demand for drive-thrus that’s carried over even now that dining rooms are back open. In fact, more than 50% of QSR orders were placed in drive-thrus in August 2021, compared to only 42% in January 2020, and drive-thru orders accounted for 75% of total ticket sales as of July 2022.
Voice AI ordering assistants make this reliable profit source even more lucrative. As we discussed earlier, AI ordering platforms automate the order-taking process, allowing team members assigned to drive-thru duties to shift to other tasks, improving efficiency and helping to make up for any staffing shortages. Ordering assistants also record orders quickly and with perfect accuracy, assuring quality guest service and reasonable drive-thru wait times.
Optimized phone ordering
Even if delivery and drive-thru comprise a majority of sales, a successful restaurant still needs to profit off of its phone lines. Phone orders still account for 28% of total restaurant sales, and AI-based digital phone systems promise even greater sales potential due to their capacity to handle an unlimited number of calls—all while simultaneously taking drive-thru orders. Voice AI phone applications seamlessly integrate with point-of-sale (POS) systems, so these platforms are as easy to set up as they are profitable.
Voice AI is the secret to stress-free restaurant management
Voice AI ordering assistants enable QSR franchisors to cut costs while simultaneously improving productivity and profits. Virtual ordering assistants provide guest-centric, personalized service and have an established track record of increasing average ticket sizes by up to 15% and gross margins up to 25%. Factor in the doubled productivity during peak hours, improved staff retention and reduced training expenses, and it becomes clear that voice AI might be the single most impactful tool restaurateurs have at their disposal.
ConverseNow is the preferred voice AI partner for leading QSR brands like Domino’s, Fazoli’s, Blake’s Lotaburger and Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza. Our ordering assistants are currently live in more than 1,200 stores across 46 states, processing millions of conversations each month and evolving every day to provide even better service. Schedule a demo today.