Why do restaurants need chatbots?

Restaurant chatbots have the potential to take the growth of any food and beverage business to the next level. This is not only a matter of cost reduction; bots go further and can handle a big variety of tasks that ranges from relations with customers to user experience.

To better understand how helpful restaurant chatbots can be, it is important to learn the difference between services where the human side plays a major role and services where the human factor is not relevant (routine activities, for example, or any task where the quality of the interaction is poor, like just asking a drink of water).

In the first case, the utility of restaurant chatbots can be questioned, as they still show problems in being empathetic with people.

When the human factor is not relevant, the chatbot utilization for restaurants works and, in some cases, brings even better results than human teams.

In practice, considering that many of the services given by a restaurant belong to case 2, the problem of the lack of empathy does not arise.

So, the trick is to utilize chatbots for routine tasks only. Their use should be avoided in those cases in which humans perform better. Ordering and reservations, messaging, content creation and advertising are the fields where a bot knows what it is doing.

In this article, we will go through several possible utilizations of restaurant chatbots to discover the value they can add to a restaurant business. To give the reader a complete picture, both advantages and disadvantages will be outlined.

Chatbot restaurant chatbots reservations: they go far beyond 24/7 servicing

Chatbot reservations are probably the most common use of this technology in the field of food and beverage. There are several advantages that these virtual assistants can bring to your restaurant.

Just to start, we remind the reader that restaurant chatbots can assure 24/7 customer service at zero cost, as they work all night and day and without salary.

Restaurant chatbots can automate almost the whole process of reservation.

They can:

  • Send your customers some reminders before the date
  • Manage cancellation requests or rebooking
  • Deal in real-time with contingencies like the customers that need to add (or remove) people
  • Change customer’s reservations

Plus, restaurant chatbots assure uniform treatment of any customers, as they do not change of mood and do not have favorites.

In other words, chatbots for restaurants assure the neutrality, standardization, and impartiality of the service, which is an advantage also for customers, not only for restaurants.

Chatbots are quick, they book in a matter of seconds; and, today, easiness and speed are all on the web.

Restaurant bots can be easily integrated with platforms and apps like like Facebook Messenger, Google My Business or on your website. This feature is important for any social-network centered business strategy.

How restaurant chatbots can manage your campaigns through Facebook messenger

Facebook Messenger has become an important business channel for many restaurants and food shops. Since it is possible to keep in touch with customers and deliver them offers, promotions, and other contents that are relevant for your audience in real-time.

The problem with Facebook is that this tool takes away too much time, especially for family restaurant owners who are in a difficult situation to have to take care of any aspect of their business.

Hiring a social media manager or anybody that can take care of social channels is not the right solution, as it is too expensive.

Restaurant chatbots wipe away these concerns. Family restaurant owners can delegate the bot to manage their Facebook campaigns and save time a money. Moreover, chatbots can manage almost any social media chat account, from Instagram to Tik Tok or even WhatsApp, and not Facebook Messenger only.

In a world where markets are conversations, conversational marketing cannot be ignored. Restaurant bots give you a valuable asset to do it with ease.

Food ordering chatbots: a new frontier

Covid has started a new era when restaurants deliver meals directly at home, instead of hosting their clients in their nice halls.

This new trend brings new opportunities and new challenges to restaurant owners. One of the main issues is to set up an efficient order management system.

AI chatbots could be a good solution, as they can manage each step of the ordering process quickly and smoothly.

Among the many functionalities of common food ordering chatbots, we have:

  • Displaying the menu of the day.
  • Fully integrated with Facebook, social platforms, and food apps like Foursquare.
  • The choice of the delivery preferences (time, location).
  • Checking out
  • And this comes without the need to download anything on customers’ devices.

The latest point deserves a further word of explanation. Users do not seem to like downloading apps so much as the app creators think.

The reasons are two: first, apps consume the memory of your device, with the consequent need to uninstall them once they have become useless; second, installing something takes time and could be difficult for users that are neither nerds nor tech-savvy people.

Food orders can be merged with the functions of food delivery chatbots, in order to supervise any step of the process, from checkout to the eventual delivery in the hand of your customers.

chatbot pizza restaurant
Your client can order pizza with custom toppings

Restaurant chatbots make promotions and advertising easy

One of the most disruptive changes that the digital era has brought about is the possibility to stay connected with your customers night and day. This means that the delivery of any kind of promotions, offers, deals, or advertisements can happen at any time and with lightning speed.

While emails were the way to deliver promotional contents of web 1.0, chat messaging is the frontrunner of today’s advertising. And on this field, AI chatbots can be difficult to beat for several good reasons:

  • AI can easily profile your customers and discover their hidden preferences and desires, in order to craft personalized offers and ads.
  • Chat messages do not end up in a spam folder.
  • Chat messages are more immediate and personal than emails.
  • AI chatbots can learn at a fast pace through deep learning and improve substantially your users’ experience.

But the best advantage of chatbots remains their ability to discover customers’ preferences and then give some good insights on how to boost sales and conversions. A difficult and laborious task that many restaurants would outsource with pleasure.

Are chatbots good for big restaurant chains only?

The answer is negative. Chatbots can bring substantial advantages both to big chains and small family restaurants. This second category could gain from in terms of saving of time and money, as we have explained above.

Other reasons that can lead to the decision to use a chatbot instead of a human operator concern the trend that shows millennials prefer bots to humans in their digital interactions.

Millennials – the people that were born from 1981 to 1996 – are destined to become the most important share of the market in the next years. Not surprisingly, marketing managers and salesmen try to please them in any way, even with a virtual assistant.

But there are other cases when a virtual assistant could be preferable to humans. For example, consider people that are addicted to trash food: they often feel shame when they give up on their impulse to buy trash food, and feeling judged by someone that sells you your daily trash is not the best in terms of user experience.

A virtual assistant can save these customers the embarrassment exactly because they anonymously buy from a machine and not from a real person.

Some restaurant chatbot examples

Burger King’s chatbot for Messenger is probably the most famous example of the use of chatbots in the world of food and drink.

Among its advanced options, the carousel menu, and other functionalities create engagement and fun.

Another interesting example is The Marriot Hotel AI chatbot. It is available also through Slack, not only through Messenger, and allows Marriot Rewards members to book travel to over 4000 hotels.

Last study cases: Domino’s and Starbuck’s chatbots. Customers can choose, order, and pay for products. And the most interesting and promising feature is that it is possible to order simply by speaking to your device.

The disadvantages

Restaurant chatbots have also some disadvantages. Let us have a quick round tour.

  1. First problem: connections. In some rural areas, the web – and your chatbot – could become not reachable for a period. In that case, the good, old landline could become an indispensable fallback.
  2. Second: people’s cultural attitudes. In some places, a virtual chatbot could be seen as something artificial and not trustworthy, or too clumsy to give that kind of personalized service that the customer expects.
  3. Third: labour concerns. Some people believe that AI and bots steal work to humans and, as a result, they boycott the organizations that utilize this technology.
  4. Fourth: the lack of empathy or other unique human characteristics. There so many customers that still prefer a place where to have their meals just because there is a cute, attractive server at the counter, after all.

Sometimes, the point of strength of a restaurant is the personality of the service, which means that its customers are used to being served directly by the owner with whom they like to interact. In such cases, using a chatbot is not advisable.

More in general, chatbots are not a good solution when empathy is one of the strong points of the marketing strategy of a restaurant.

In conclusion, can a chatbot be used by a restaurant? The answer is positive. And restaurant chatbots can be a valuable resource because of several advantages they bring that are not limited to their ability to work 24/7.

However, there also some cons to consider. Like everything, this technology is not for everybody. It is up to each restaurant to understand whether a bot can solve its problems or not. You can contact us, we will be happy to discuss your needs!

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Written by
Marco La Rosa

Marco La Rosa is a blogger, writer, content creator, and UX designer. Very interested in new technologies, he wrote Neurocopywriting, a book about neurosciences and their applications to writing and communication‍

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