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Can I Take Your Order? Why Voice Ordering Is Revolutionizing the Foodservice Space

As major QSR brands begin adopting new technologies, voice ordering is offering a slew of brand new possibilities.

Just when companies were starting to get used to touch-screen kiosks, technological trends are changing once again. As Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant gain popularity, consumers are demanding the same level of easy, voice-controlled ordering from their fast-food brands. While quick-service restaurants have been leveraging new technologies such as self-order kiosks and drone delivery to streamline store operations, increase orders and enhance customer loyalty, AI-powered voice ordering is taking things to a whole new level.

This week, McDonald's agreed to acquire two-year-old Silicon Valley-based Apprente, an early stage, voice-based conversational technology startup that can automate voice-based ordering in multiple languages. The acquisition comes after McDonald's began testing voice-activated drive-thrus and deep-frying robots in June

As part of the brand’s attempt to become a tech leader, McDonald’s is shifting its focus onto raising the bar for restaurant technology, putting together a Silicon Valley-based technology team of engineers and data scientists called McD Test Labs, of which Apprente will be the founding member.  

The QSR burger chain Sonic also began testing a voice-automated menu in May through a partnership with Mastercard and kiosk vendor ZIVELO. Domino’s, in its never-ending quest for tech dominance, unveiled a voice recognition app named “DOM”, meant to create a more natural and streamlined way to order pizza over the phone.

Of course, artificial intelligence isn’t just good for quick ordering; brands like Chick-fil-A have begun using a customized artificial intelligence system that provides the company with algorithms to analyze social media posts for potential food safety issues across its system. Chipotle recently began rolling out the use of AI-voice recognition, which can provide brands with a consumer profile based solely on a customer’s voice, including important demographic information such as age, gender and preferred meal choice. 

As more and more customers come to expect the easiest ordering process possible, franchisors in the QSR and fast casual space are leveraging voice technology as the new frontier.