Welcome to the team, robot: why your restaurant should be harnessing the power of AI

With artificial intelligence working its way into so many areas of our lives, it was only a matter of time until chatbots found a role in the restaurants and bar industry.

Savvy restaurateurs across the country are now starting to consider how to capitalise on this modern technology to improve customer service and increase their revenues.

Personal interaction and excellent service have always been key factors in survival in this competitive industry, of course.

But mobile technology, the arrival of millennial diners and the increasing sophistication of restaurant POS systems are making a big difference in the way we deliver that personal interaction.

Younger guests don’t mind engaging with a device and often prefer messaging to emails or calls – which is where restaurants seeking their business are exploring opportunities with chatbots.

Talking of technology

It’s good news that the restaurant management technology to do this is already in existence – one example is Open Table integrating with Facebook Messenger.

People converse on Messenger about dinner plans, and in a jiffy, they are booked into your restaurant by a helpful bot.

Today’s guests are more likely to link up with your brand online or via a third-party website such as TripAdvisor than by phoning.

As they often choose instant messaging, even for customer enquiries restaurants have an opportunity to employ chatbot technology to talk to their guests 24/7.

TripAdvisor has launched a chatbot for Facebook Messenger, too – guests just send TripAdvisor a message and the chatbot takes it from there.

They can even ask friends to join the conversation, review the suggestions or share an itinerary.

In time, the AI learns your guests’ preferences. It means, for example, if you are a pasta restaurant in London it pays to have great TripAdvisor reviews when “pasta restaurant in Kensington” becomes a Messenger search.

Chabot service does have some advantages over human contact – believe it or not!

Chatbots never have a bad day, for instance, and giving poor service as a result. A chatbot always responds to customers in the same cheery way.

Figures from Facebook

  • 53% of people would rather message customer services than call
  • 76% users feel mobile messaging apps improve their lives
  • 53% of people say they’re more likely to spend money with a business if they can message it directly

Companies including Evernote say they have seen an 80% increase in the number of customers helped via direct messages on Twitter as part of their social care strategy each month.

Chatbot developers Rakebot suggest that by the end of 2020, around 80% of businesses will be using chatbots to boost revenue.

Got bots?

Starbucks is among the hospitality brands who are using chatbot technology to enhance customer service. If you order by text the bot places your order and totals it all up fast.

Pizza Hut also uses chatbot technology, which works with Messenger and Twitter – customers can make an enquiry about the menu and special offers, as well as placing their order.

Good news for staff

Chatbots are convenient for customers but also help your staff as well.

The bot relieves them of repetitive, mundane tasks such as booking tables or processing take-away orders that can prove boring and demotivating, and it means their time can be better spent on customer service and up-selling.

Because bots are fully automated, they are available even when your restaurant is closed, so the potential for more orders and bookings is increased. The technology can handle many enquiries at once, so sales are never lost.

Bigger intelligence

In difficult trading times, it pays to have any information that can help you to sell more effectively. Chatbot technology provides important insights into customer behaviour that are unavailable via a phone call or email.

Restaurateurs gain insights into buying patterns and customer conversations that enable the creation of carefully – targeted promotions.

Don’t delay

Chatbot technology is moving quickly, with full integration to restaurant POS systems now possible to offer a full to end service to your guests.

As a recent blog put it, digital transformation is revolutionising restaurants. Using existing chatbot technology such as TripAdvisor and Open Table is simple and can pay dividends – or if you want to take it further you can develop your own app.

Off the shelf programs, such as Sprout Social, are an exciting alternative product that helps you to get started quickly.

If you choose this route, integration with the restaurant POS systems is key to deliver seamless ordering – from message to an automated kitchen to table to mobile payment.

The technology even offers faster redemption rates on loyalty programmes – Absolut vodka saw an uplift of almost 500% thanks to their Messenger-based campaign.

So chatbot technology, coupled with a good restaurant POS systems, offers an ideal combination of quick customer service and huge sales opportunities.

This tremendous technological opportunity is there right now for the taking. Isn’t it time that your restaurant got with the bots?

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