Voice-enabled ordering kiosks
Jul 24, 2020
7 MIN READ

Are Voice-Enabled Kiosks the Next Big Thing for Hotels and Restaurants?

Digital self-service kiosks for the hospitality industry began to grow in popularity in the early 2000s as a way to provide better guest experiences. In hotels, they provide frictionless experiences and reduce wait times for travelers who want to spend more time vacationing and less time standing in line. A recent study by Travel Leaders Group found that almost 78% of travelers would prefer a self-service kiosk in hotel lobbies. 

In recent years, food self-service kiosks are becoming the norm for quick service (QSRs) and fast casual restaurants like McDonalds, Pandera, Subway, and Taco Bell as a way to expedite the ordering process, increase ticket totals, and remain competitive. According to National Restaurant Association data, 79% of customers believe restaurant kiosks make their experiences more convenient.

78% of travelers would prefer a self-service kiosk in hotel lobbies and 79% of customers believe restaurant kiosks make their experiences more convenient.

National Restaurant Association study

Since cities around the world started grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, growing concerns for health and safety and the public’s heightened vigilance for hand sanitizing have fueled consumer demand for touchless experiences in even more restaurants and hotels.

Guests are now fully aware of the dangers of shared surfaces and will be reluctant to visit hotels and restaurants where touch screens are used predominantly for check-in, check-out, and food ordering—unless those experiences are hands-free.

If you’re a hotelier or quick service restaurant owner and you haven’t yet adopted a voice-first strategy, here are 5 top reasons you should consider adding voice-enabled kiosks or menu boards to all your properties and locations:

Benefits of voice-enabled kiosks for restaurants

1. Customers want faster service

Fast, accurate, and convenient are words that describe the kinds of experiences today’s travelers and quick service restaurant customers are seeking. They also describe the benefits of voice-enabled kiosks and self-service digital menu boards for hotels and QSRs. 

Eliminate long lines at the front desk and food service cash register by giving guests a self-service option that mirrors the experience of talking to a human. Adding a voice interface reduces the inconvenience of waiting in line to check-in or order food while lowering the barriers to using a device with limited menu options that requires multiple types and swipes.  

While it may seem that adding a touchless, self-service option to your check-in and ordering process reduces customer service, the opposite is actually true. In fact, guests are beginning to expect and even demand the convenience of self-service as a way to save time and streamline their experiences. 

According to a report by Tillster, if line lengths were equal, 30% of customers would still prefer to order from a self- service kiosk. With a line longer than four people, the number rises to a majority. In addition, a whopping 67% of customers plan to place an order with a self-service kiosk in 2020.

30% of customers prefer to order from a self- service kiosk and a whopping 67% of customers plan to place an order with a self-service kiosk in 2020.

Since the study by Tillster in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has created hyper-sensitivity to touching surfaces in public. The integration of a custom, branded voice user interface into kiosks fulfills consumer demands for both convenience and safety. 

2. Voice menus are easier to navigate

The greatest motivators driving the demand for self-service are convenience and speed. However, when the self-service experience is difficult to navigate or when customers aren’t sure how to find what they want within a complicated menu tree, the experience quickly becomes obstructive. Take the friction out of self-service by allowing guests to ask for things the same way they would ask an employee in a full-service environment—with natural voice queries. 

Advanced natural language understanding technology and high-quality text-to-speech functionality provide an interface that closely resembles interactions with a human agent. Voice user interfaces eliminate the need for a complex menu tree and allow customers to speak naturally to ask questions—just as they would when talking to another person. 

Easier than touching, typing, and swiping through long menus, voice assistants deliver the ability to understand complex orders, and the capacity to process modifications and follow-up with the customer to confirm and clarify requests. These voice technologies are also able to respond to an order that cannot be fulfilled due to unavailability.

While 65% of customers said they would visit a restaurant more often if self-service kiosks were offered, those same guests will soon return after the pandemic demanding the convenience of a self-service kiosk and the safety of touchless experiences.

For fast casual and quick service restaurants, the adoption of voice-enabled kiosks may become the differentiator between those that bounce back from the current crisis and those that continue to lag behind. While 65% of customers said they would visit a restaurant more often if self-service kiosks were offered, those same guests will return after the pandemic demanding the convenience of a self-service kiosk and the safety of touchless experiences.

3. Improved health and safety increases return visits

As Metro discovered in 2018, touchscreens are often a source of dangerous bacteria. In the past, guests using touchscreens—unaware that those communal surfaces posed a health danger—moved from food ordering to food pickup without washing their hands. These “unsuspecting” patrons were exposing themselves unwittingly to diseases as serious as staph infections. 

Just two years later, those same guests are fully aware of the dangers of shared surfaces and will be reluctant to visit hotels and restaurants where touch screens are used predominantly for check-in, check-out, and food ordering—unless those experiences are hands-free.

Adding a voice-enabled kiosk is a demonstrable way to prove your concern for the health and well-being of your customers and employees by reducing physical contact. Putting a voice-first strategy in place will earn your brand the reputation of caring for both customers and employees, and help you gain an advantage in an increasingly competitive market.

4. Customers tend to order more via self-service kiosks

According to a recent study by PYMNTS, customers spend 30% more when ordering through a self-service kiosk. Whether people are ordering more because they have more time to consider additional options, or whether they’re just more comfortable placing a larger order via a device over a human is still unclear. What we know is that installing voice-enabled kiosks gives guests the freedom to order what they want and consider additional items, while allowing for multiple orders from several customers simultaneously.

Customers spend 30% more when ordering through a self-service kiosk.

Drive-thru wait times can be significantly shortened when voice-enabled menu boards are in use, giving QSRs the option of expanding from one drive-thru lane to multiple lanes of traffic or multiple drive-in stalls capable of receiving orders simultaneously. 

In the hotel environment, voice-enabled kiosks offer guests access to always-available concierge services, the ability to request room updates or extended stays, restaurant locations, and make reservations—all with a simple voice request. Offering speed and convenience can encourage guests to make value-added requests without the frustration of waiting in long lines. 

5. Voice-enabled kiosks improve employee efficiency

When you lessen the burden of order taking from staff, you free them up to focus on customer service and other critical tasks. Without needing to talk through orders, modifications, and special requests, employees can take the time to care for walk-up customers who want to talk with a person, carefully assemble orders, and cheerfully deliver food or process payments. 

Hotel guests will still have the luxury of talking with an employee to ask other types of questions, get recommendations, and discover other hotel amenities. They will be delighted at the simple check-in procedures that don’t require computer or screen literacy or visual prompts to guide them through an endless list of options. They will appreciate the ability to get immediate assistance from front desk staff who aren’t always occupied with lengthy check-in and check-out procedures. 

Implementing a voice-enabled kiosk or menu board developed with advanced natural language understanding technology allows your guests to make their requests naturally and conversationally—just as they would with another human. 

Serve up better guest experiences, increase convenience and accessibility, and improve customer relations with a voice-first strategy that includes voice-enabled kiosks. Your guests will appreciate interacting with a voice assistant that is never rushed for time and can calmly accept any order and deliver nutritional information or recommendations that the cashier or front desk employee may not have readily available.

Our Houndify independent voice AI platform can help any hotelier or restaurant brand integrate a voice solution into their products, kiosks, and apps. We can combine all the benefits of a voice-enabled ordering system with a variety of choices for cloud connectivity and the ability to maintain control over your customer experience and data. 

Explore Houndify’s independent voice AI platform at Houndify.com to register for a free account. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help you bring your voice strategy to life.

Karen Scates is a storyteller with a passion for helping others through content. Argentine tango, good books and great wine round out Karen’s interests.

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