How Conversational AI Improves Restaurant Customer Service

Quick-service and fast-casual restaurants continue to experience unprecedented growth as customers seek fast and convenient ways to get their favorite meals, particularly in our post-pandemic world.

According to a report by ​​Technavio, the quick-service restaurant market is projected to grow by $119.20 billion from 2021 to 2025.

This good news, however, is offset by the continuing staffing shortages that can easily impact the guest experience.

Many QSRs and fast-casual restaurants are turning to automation technology to improve customer satisfaction and enhance customer experiences.

To ensure a better customer experience amid staffing challenges, restaurants are integrating conversational AI solutions with existing ordering systems. This is helping to increase efficiency, take more orders, and positively impact the bottom line—while offering an exceptional customer experience.

1. Speed and efficiency at the drive-thru

For drive-thrus, service quality is vitally important, while speed and efficiency are critical. It’s why the drive-thru was invented—to get food to customers with short wait times and as quickly as possible.

And all of this from the comfort of their cars.

By voice-enabling a drive-thru, restaurateurs are increasing accuracy and speed which enhances the drive-thru experience and provides exceptional customer service. 

According to QSR Magazine’s drive-thru study, 89% of respondents stated that order accuracy was “somewhat” or “most” important to them, 88% identified speed of service, and 75% chose convenience. Conversational AI delivers on these promises with fast and accurate responses—even in noisy environments—and offers the ultimate convenience of natural conversation and ease of ordering.

Conversational AI technology

Using advanced noise cancellation technology and acoustic modeling, conversational AI voice assistants can understand customers even when other passengers are talking, and in the presence of wind, music, and other background noises.

With a dedicated voice assistant taking the orders and the ability to take several orders at once — either through the phone or multiple kiosks and drive-thru lanes — it improves the ordering process. Letting restaurant staff focus on meal prep and be more attentive to customers who are in the restaurant.

Massive and lengthy drive-thru menu boards can be an obstacle for customers trying to find the delicious food they are craving. Poor lighting, distance, or eyesight compound the problem.

By eliminating the need for customers to search the menu, voice AI speeds up the process, placing orders faster, and improving customer experiences overall.

89% of respondents stated that order accuracy was “somewhat” or “most” important to them, 88% identified speed of service, and 75% chose convenience. – QSR Magazine

2. Voice-enabled kiosks

Self-service kiosks are an excellent way to create faster, more efficient service for many restaurants.

Instead of having to know exactly what an item is called or where it is located on the menu, customers can simply ask for what they want. Even if it they don’t use the proper name, conversational AI can understand their request and ask any follow-up questions to ensure the correct item is ordered — removing unnecessary swiping and searching of long menus. 

No scrolling through lengthy menus

Customers often find that voice menus are easier to navigate than written menu boards, adding to the many benefits of having a voice-enabled kiosk inside restaurants.

Voice assistants can also easily process complex requests, understand context without requiring a customer to repeat information, and will follow up with customers to confirm and clarify any requests. 

Kiosks driven by voice AI eliminate the need for customers to scroll through pages of options — instead, they can simply say what they want.

While typing and swiping do have their advantages, voice-enabled kiosks truly excel when large catalogs of information are involved, such as lengthy menus. With a voice assistant, customers wouldn’t have to scroll through different options but instead, ask questions like: 

Instead of a one-way interface, customers will be able to ask questions that restaurant staff may not have immediate access to—including food allergies, nutrition information, and dietary restrictions. Kiosks driven by voice AI can quickly relay the information without increasing the wait time for other customers—effectively increasing the number of orders and eliminating customer frustration. 

3. Phone ordering increases customer satisfaction

With ongoing labor shortages, QSRs and other restaurants are facing unprecedented staffing challenges. The lack of restaurant staff and a rapid rate of turnover among employees is creating a number of challenges, including the ability to provide the fast customer service these types of restaurants are known for. 

voice AI-powered phone ordering system is a hassle-free, easy-to-implement solution that relieves much of the pressure restaurateurs are facing to provide frictionless service.

Voice AI takes multiple orders at once and helps drive an increase in sales and revenues, while also providing better accuracy. And it allows staff to focus on food prep and serve the customers in front of them with more attentiveness.

Voice assistants are revolutionizing restaurant phone ordering experiences in 5 key ways: 

  1. Calls are answered promptly and personally
  2. Orders are captured accurately
  3. Customers engage naturally with a conversational voice assistant
  4. Owners enjoy simple and easy setup  
  5. Restaurants achieve increased operational efficiencies

Efficient restaurant operations

While labor shortages often result in long hold times for customers calling into a restaurant, a voice assistant immediately answers calls and can answer several calls at once — eliminating hold times and delays.

A voice-enabled phone ordering system is like a permanent employee who is always on shift, answers calls with zero hold time, and can take multiple orders at once. 

Voice AI-powered phone ordering systems are built with small restaurant needs in mind, making it an easy solution to integrate with existing POS systems and with instant payments built-in. Installation is easy and immediate, so restaurateurs can experience the operational efficiencies of allowing staff to focus on other duties while still providing the type of customer service that fosters brand loyalty. 

4. In-car voice assistants and smart TVs expand possibilities

Car and TV manufacturers are looking for ways to partner with restaurants for expanded user experiences as conversational AI technology continues to evolve into revenue-generating capabilities. The future of conversational AI is developing monetizable moments that deliver value to users while proving ROI for brands. 

QSRs and fast-casual restaurants can extend their user reach through evolving in-car voice experiences and smart TVs that offer convenient and efficient user experiences. Through monetization opportunities, users can order food to be picked up or delivered while on the road or at home without having to switch devices or tap and swipe across the screen to achieve their goals. 

Want to learn more about monetization opportunities? Check out our in-depth guide Voice Assistants Evolve to Become Revenue Generators.”

Expanding the possibilities

With voice-enabled drive-thrus, mobile apps, self-service kiosks, phone ordering, in-car infotainment systems, and smart TVs, QSRs and fast-casual restaurants are expanding the possibilities of how they can reach their customers with exceptional service that meets their needs while creating operational efficiencies. 

As with any revolutionary technology, voice assistants are entering a turning point where those without the new advancements will be left behind in favor of voice-enabled competitors. 

At SoundHound, we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore the SoundHound for Restaurants voice AI platform to learn more. Want to speak to an expert or request a demo? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

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 Want to learn more or request a demo? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

David Barry Headshot

David Barry is a high-tech storyteller with a passion for communicating complex ideas simply. He met his wife in a taxicab in San Francisco.