Voice AI phone ordering
May 26, 2022
3 MIN READ

5 Reasons Why Restaurants are Serving Up Voice AI Phone Ordering

For many restaurants, the going has been tough for a while now. Starting with the pandemic, they’ve seen persistent labor shortages, supply chain challenges, and a rising demand for fast, convenient, and low-touch service. The growth in take-out services has prompted more restaurants to partner with delivery services—a solution that comes with a hefty price tag. 

Unwilling to pay additional delivery fees and higher food prices, many consumers still prefer to call in their food orders on the phone. Automating that experience with an AI-powered phone assistant is revolutionizing the quick service and fast-casual restaurant industry and may soon see more entry into restaurants that offer both sit-down service and to-go ordering.

According to PYMNTS.com, 67% of QSR’s orders come from phone or digital orders, making it the primary source of revenue for restaurants. Just as QSRs should place time and importance on their website and mobile apps, phone orders need equal effort and love to showcase the service, speed, and efficiency that your customers expect whenever they call in. 

An increase in labor shortages in the restaurant industry has left many QSRs having to choose between serving customers in-store or answering the phone—a choice no restaurant should have to make. Conversational AI phone ordering systems are like an additional employee who can answer the phone at any time and take multiple calls at once, creating satisfied customers and delivering value to the business. 

Voice AI solutions for restaurant phone ordering

When the entire phone ordering process is handled by a voice assistant, restaurant owners are able to spend less time hiring and training staff, calming frustrated customers, and missing out on sales because no one is available to answer the phone during peak times. For customers, gone are the days of having to endure long hold times, waiting in line, and being misunderstood. 

Voice AI-powered phone ordering systems offer the following 5 key benefits: 

  1. Maximize sales and take more orders
  2. Provide better and more consistent customer service
  3. Improve employee efficiency
  4. Easy and simple setup
  5. Eliminate hold time

SoundHound and Square partner for voice AI phone ordering systems

SoundHound Square logo lockup

SoundHound and Square are partnering for a first-of-its-kind service that will allow restaurants to automate the phone ordering process. SoundHound and Square, the globally trusted software, payments, and hardware company, are partnering to integrate SoundHound’s conversational AI phone ordering automation with Square’s point-of-sale (POS) systems.

When a customer calls into a restaurant to place an order, the SoundHound for Restaurants™ voice assistant immediately answers the call, takes the caller’s order, accepts modifications, and sends a confirmation to complete the payment. Callers can ask for what they want through a natural language interface powered by SoundHound’s advanced conversational AI technology.

Seamless integration and a simple four-step setup make SoundHound for Restaurants ideal for restaurant owners looking for cost-effective ways to handle the recent trends of increasing consumer demand for take-out orders and the impact of labor shortages. SoundHound’s voice assistant answers every call—even during peak hours—eliminating the busy signal, taking multiple orders simultaneously, and seamlessly processing the order and payment through Square’s POS system.

“At Square, we are seeing sellers leverage the latest technology to meet customer demand regardless of size or complexity. Our partnership with SoundHound allows us to offer innovative and cost-effective solutions to restaurants working with small profit margins and facing multiple challenges—including the high cost of rapid labor turnover and shortages. This integration provides our sellers with the tools they need to offer a consistently high-level of customer service.”

Bryan Solar
Head of Restaurants, Square

To get started, restaurant owners simply connect their Square POS to SoundHound for Restaurants, sync to the menu they want the voice assistant to use, and input the phone number for the system to answer. After that, SoundHound’s voice assistant acts just like a front-of-house staff member—answering the phone and taking orders.

SoundHound spoke with many restaurant operators to develop SoundHound for Restaurants and received overwhelming feedback about the need for automated solutions that help restaurants process more orders and meet growing consumer demands more efficiently. SoundHound’s partnership with Square gives them the opportunity to bring the power of conversational AI technology to businesses that would otherwise not be able to access the convenience and efficiencies of a voice-enabled solution.

1. Maximize sales and take more orders

conversational AI phone ordering system gives QSRs and fast-casual restaurants the gift of maximizing sales and taking more orders by being able to answer multiple calls anytime. Instead of customers being placed on hold because there are several incoming calls during peak times, a voice assistant can answer all of them simultaneously, taking their orders and providing an exceptional customer experience. 

“It’s almost like an employee in a way because we don’t have to answer the phone, especially when you get a lot of phone orders. To have that employee there to help and assist and not have to be on the phone, especially at key times, is huge.”

Victor Matchie
Monkey’s Subs Owner

Voice assistants are also always on shift and don’t have to multitask between other duties, such as preparing food, cleaning, serving food, or taking orders from in-store customers. The sole duty of conversational AI is to answer the phone, take orders, and make the experience as pleasing as possible. With simultaneous calls and no customers put on hold or forgotten, QSRs will see an increase in orders and sales. 

2. Provide better and more consistent customer service

In addition to never placing customers on hold, conversational AI phone ordering systems provide consistent and excellent customer service. By using advanced voice AI technology, the voice assistant can understand complex and compound order requests, so customers can speak naturally and conversationally.

From the customer perspective, they call the order in and have a pleasant transaction. It’s just seamless, and they’re having a normal conversation. The system is able to pick up and recognize what the customer is saying, how they’re saying it, and all the different ways, just like a regular human would.”

Victor Matchie
Monkey’s Subs Owner

Voice assistants are also context-aware, meaning customers don’t have to repeat information they’ve already stated. The voice assistant implicitly knows that “Remove the tomatoes” means to take the tomatoes off of the burger previously ordered. Conversational AI also has the ability to infer what menu item is being referred to, even if it is not stated exactly on the menu. For example, if a customer says, “I’ll have a kids’ sandwich”, the voice assistant will know that means the “Little Chimp’s meal”—in the case of Monkey’s Subs. This level of conversational interaction creates a superior service where customers feel understood and at ease during the ordering process. 

3. Improve employee efficiency

With a voice assistant answering incoming calls, phone orders are one less task that employees have to worry about, reducing stress and ensuring they don’t become overwhelmed or overworked during peak hours. Instead, employees can focus on food preparation and delivery that is quick and accurate. 

“It not only helps our customer service speed and keeps the quality in check, but it also helps alleviate the extra stress, which is huge. That’s the behind-the-scenes that customers don’t know, especially when it gets busy. It helps alleviate our anxiety and our stress as workers because now we’re not overextended.”

Victor Matchie
Monkey’s Subs Owner

Finding and retaining staff is an obstacle many QSRs face, especially with the recent labor shortages. By having a voice assistant answer the phones, restaurateurs can show their employees that they are creating an environment that prioritizes their wellbeing. 

4. Easy and simple setup

A voice AI phone ordering system that integrates seamlessly with the existing POS system provides a seamless and easy experience for restaurateurs. With a voice assistant, gone are the days of spending hours training staff on phone etiquette, menu details, payment collection, and brand voice.

It just implements it like a third party order and populates into our POS system onto our screen. There’s a lot of benefit on our end because it helps our efficiency. It pops on our order screen. We make the sandwich or the food, and it’s already paid for, and that’s another big deal because now we don’t have to stop.”

Victor Matchie
Monkey’s Subs Owner

Instead, the voice assistant comes pre-trained and with an always positive attitude. Restaurant owners can simply update the menu whenever there are changes, and the voice assistant becomes an instant expert on all the menu offerings. The easy and quick setup and elimination of training save restaurateurs time and money—while alleviating stress. 

5. Eliminate hold time

Hungry customers tend to have limited patience for the food ordering and pick-up process, and being put on hold only creates frustration and sometimes abandonment of the order in favor of a competitor who will answer the call. With a conversational AI phone ordering system, QSRs and fast-casual restaurants will never have to choose between answering a call and serving the customer in the store or taking a phone order and ensuring the food is prepared with quality and speed.

It got to the point where answering the phone became completely frustrating to the point where we just couldn’t get to it. Sometimes we would put somebody on hold and get too busy that we would forget that they were on hold. Occasionally a customer will come in and go, ‘Hey, I’ve been trying to call in for the last hour, and your phone’s off the hook.’ That’s a continuous problem that we have because we get so busy and you lose.

Victor Matchie
Monkey’s Subs Owner

A voice assistant answers every call on the first ring and takes each order without ever putting the caller on hold. With this superior service, conversational AI brings value to QSRs and fast-casual restaurants by building up brand loyalty and online reviews. With phone orders increasingly becoming a main source of revenue, QSRs don’t want to miss any calls by placing their customers on hold. 

Craving more insights? Watch the full interview with Monkey’s Subs below. 

At SoundHound, we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore SoundHound’s independent voice AI platform at SoundHound.com and register for a free account here. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

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