The customer sits at his table and says, “The usual, please.” He opens his book and says, “Brighter,” and the light over his table brightens. Five minutes later his smiling server arrives with his order. “Should I charge, now?” he asks. When the customer agrees, the server says. “Please charge,” to his tablet. “Confirmed,” says the customer. Throughout the whole process, the server did not have to fumble with a keypad, and the customer used nothing but his voice to pay.
This is not speculation. This is the very near future. Already, in the US, over 20% of all ordering is voice activated. Google estimates that this will increase to 50% by 2021. In the past two years, Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut and Starbucks have all added voice recognition and voice activated services. In select outlets, My Starbucks Barista chatbot allows users to order their favourites. The speed at which it is being adopted shows that the industry is reaching an inflection point, after which growth will be exponential. Voice technology is transforming F&B in many ways. Here are just a few of them.
Online Ordering: Voice technology is rapidly progressing from menu integration to chat bot driven concierge services, which will help customers find the perfect sandwich.
Customer Recognition: Voice recognition enabled restaurants and cafes will be able to identify a customer as soon as they speak, and offer them their favourite items.
Ambience Control: Using Smart Home technology, table-based speaker systems will allow customers to control local lighting and temperature.
Hands Free Billing: Voice activated tablets will allow servers to generate bills without fiddling with keyboards.
Easy Database Access: Servers will be able to ask their tablet about customer preferences, and hear replies from the database of stored customer data.
Service Reminders: A voice-enabled tablet will be able to remind servers about customer requests, at defined intervals, until the request is fulfilled.
Voice technology will add yet another layer of functionality to the formidable capabilities of POS systems. The question facing restaurant owners is not whether to adopt it, but how soon.