How are restaurants and food service using AI to improve service, profit margins and efficiency? A few ways are through demand forecasting software, a coffee-making machine and automated voice ordering at drive-thru locations.
Thirty-six percent of 1,000 U.S. people told HungerRush in a survey in May that they believed major restaurant chains don’t have enough staff to take orders, prepare food, and handle deliveries. AI is touted by many industry experts as the solution to correct this.
According to a report by the National Restaurant Association in February, around 58 percent of restaurant operators said the use of automation and tech to help address labor shortages will become more common this year.
In June, Goop Kitchen, part of Los Angeles-based wellness brand Goop, reported results of its recent integration of back-of-house AI technology to enhance operational efficiency. Through the implementation of ClearCOGS demand forecasting software, Goop Kitchen successfully reduced its food costs (COGS) and profit margin by over 2 percent.
By leveraging AI-powered systems, the brand optimized its back-of-house operations, enabled precise forecasting, improved inventory management, and enhanced ingredient sourcing.
Goop Kitchen’s commitment to sustainability has been further strengthened by the implementation of AI. By optimizing ingredient sourcing, reducing waste, and implementing environmentally friendly packaging solutions, Goop Kitchen continues to prioritize its role as a responsible and eco-conscious brand.
Major U.S. restaurant chains including Starbucks, Domino’s, and Chipotle are touting new technologies to automate production, cut labor costs and potentially boost profit margins.
Starbucks said it plans to roll out a coffee-making machine, the Siren System, in around 10 percent of its stores starting next year. Starbucks claims that baristas using the machine will be able to produce drinks with less time and fewer steps, making a grande mocha frappucinno in 36 seconds rather than 87 seconds.
The Wendy’s Co. teamed with Google Cloud to test artificial intelligence technology at a company-operated drive-thru in June. Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s and Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Google Cloud said the pilot project is aimed at creating a quick and consistent drive-thru ordering experience.
CKE Restaurants Holdings, the parent company of fast food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, is rolling out artificial intelligence at its drive-thrus. The company is partnering with AI companies Presto Automation, OpenCity, and Valyant AI to automate voice ordering at participating drive-thru locations across the country, according to news releases. Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s operate roughly 2,800 restaurants across 44 states.
Sweetgreen, the fast-casual restaurant, is closer to closing its debt than the prior year, the brand announced during its first-quarter earnings call. In addition to closing its debt, the growing brand opened its first Infinite Kitchen, a store design with an automated makeline, in Naperville, Ill. in May, according to CEO Jonathan Neman.
“From these pilots, we hope to learn how we can create a more consistent customer experience, faster throughput, and make our team members’ jobs easier and more dynamic,” said Neman. “We believe this new concept, powered by automation, unlocks efficiencies that will enable us to grow more quickly and have higher profit margins.”
Restaurants can deploy a solution such as Soundhound for Restaurants, a product suite that can be integrated for a wide variety of purposes, such as drive-thru, phones, kiosks or custom solutions to meet a brand’s needs.
Soundhound’s phone solution can capture unanswered phone orders from customers, which might otherwise result in missed calls and lost revenue. The system processes customer orders placed via voice and then transmits orders directly to the restaurant’s point-of-sale. It can also remove “human and environmental errors,” Daniel Vorderstrasse, Soundhound senior sales manager, told QSR Web, such as an employee entering the order incorrectly into the POS, connection issues or simply misunderstanding an order.
SoundHound is seeing this play out at two of its restaurant customers. AmeriBrunch, based in downtown Las Vegas, was short staffed and wasn’t able to answer its phone during busy hours, which left many customers facing busy signals, waiting on hold or being sent to voicemail.
Since deploying Soundhound’s voice AI, AmeriBrunch transformed its operations, gaining a 100 percent increase in phone ordering, a 50 percent increase in ticket size, and $36K increase in annual sales.
Multisite restaurant Round the Clock in Indiana experienced a similar dynamic. Being open 24/7 exacerbated its staffing troubles and ability to answer calls. With SoundHound voice AI now answering 100 percent of its phone calls, it is seeing a 50 percent increase in calls answered; the restaurant projects a $55K increase in annual sales in 2023.