In 1996, I had a holiday job in an office working for the government. A woman called Julie had somehow managed to get her hands on a whizzy new gadget that allowed her to talk into a microphone and, through the power of voice recognition, the words would appear on her computer.
This was massive news - there was no e-mail in those days of yore, so a huge amount of letters had to be written and posted every day.
To cut a very, very long story short, I spent an afternoon listening to poor old Julie. “Dear <long pause> Mrs. <long pause> Peters. No. Delete. Peters. PETERS. No, not potatoes. Why is it writing potatoes?” and so on, for four long hours. She could have typed 50 letters in the time it took to dictate one paragraph.
It certainly put me off. And for years voice recognition seemed to struggle to find its way – the pain of trying to call up for train times or other information and having to use voice recognition remains all too clear to me.
But then Google voice search arrived – the hassle of typing on a mobile phone meant that it was easier for people to try and search for things using their voices – and then Siri, Alexa, Google Home. Today voice recognition is everywhere.
So how will it be used in the restaurant industry with restaurant POS? In our Restaurant 2025 research, we asked operators and consumers to tell us which uses of voice recognition and activation they would most like to see.
Voice recognition for gathering guest feedback?
The most popular use of voice recognition among our restaurant operator survey participants was for gathering guest feedback via restaurant POS. 50% of operators liked the idea. However, a fifth were not so convinced about it.
Voice recognition to allow guests to ask questions about the menu?
The second most popular use of voice recognition/activation was for allowing guests to ask questions about the menu; 49% of operators liked this idea, while only 17% though it was unappealing.
Voice recognition to allow guests to order?
45% of operators were keen on allowing guests to place their orders using voice recognition. I suspect that the growth of kiosk technology in quick-service restaurants has paved the way for this in many ways, as it proves that personal service is not always necessary to a portion of your customer base. However, 25% of operators thought it was an unappealing idea.
Voice recognition to allow guests to pay?
39% of operators liked the idea of allowing guests to pay using voice recognition/activation. However, 32% were not keen, which is quite surprising - speeding up the payment process is an area of focus for many operators and I’d have expected more of them to be willing to try it.
Voice recognition for guests controlling heat and light – the operator view:
38% of operators liked the idea of allowing guests to control heat and light with their voices. However, 36% didn’t like the idea.
Voice recognition for guests controlling heat and light – the consumer view:
22% of consumers said they would visit a restaurant more often if they could change heat and light using voice activation. 13% said it would put them off visiting.
Voice recognition to allow restaurant staff to recognise guests?
39% of operators liked the idea of recognising guests by their voices. 32% were not keen.
Download the Restaurant 2025 report if you would like to read more about other emerging technologies that will impact on the food and beverage industry: robotics, wearable technology, artificial intelligence, biometrics, facial recognition, 3D imaging, virtual reality, drones, and 3D printing.