Jackson, Miss.-based fast-casual restaurant brand Newk’s Eatery became the latest chain on Thursday to implement AI technology to support human staff and mitigate any labor shortages. The 100-unit chain is partnering with Kea voice ordering system to implement a “cashier in the cloud” AI solution to answer phone orders and alleviate that task from busy cashiers.
Currently Kea’s cloud-based technology is in operation in Newk’s corporate locations and will be expanding to its franchised stores this year. The company has been able to eliminate phone lines at half of its restaurants after only utilizing the technology for a few months.
“When callers can’t get through to a cashier, we risk upsetting loyal customers and losing a significant segment of our customer base,” Adam Karveller, vice president of information technology at Newk’s Eatery said in a statement. “Not only that, if the phone is constantly ringing off the hook, we also risk losing employees who are stressed and overwhelmed, compounding the labor shortage problem we already face.”
Here's how the technology works: Kea’s AI system is able to take incoming calls, transcribe, upsell, process payment, and send orders to the restaurant’s POS system.
Newk’s joins the throng of restaurant chains that are starting to rely on AI technology to cut labor costs and improve speed and efficiency of service. Although most of the voice technology is being used in the drive-thru — from Panera to White Castle — other chains like Papa Johns are implementing these automated phonebanks to take phone orders.
But Newk’s doesn’t want to stop at AI taking phone orders—they also want to eventually utilize AI to automate inventory and purchasing systems and to create team schedules.
“I also think moving forward AI will play a big role in guest self-ordering experiences,” Karvaller told Nation’s Restaurant News. “[…] As AI gets better and better, it will be much easier to leverage the technology to help analyze sales mix, product costs and optimize and engineer your menu for both profitability and guest preference."
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