If you are a restaurant in 2019, one of your most valuable assets is your customer data: what they order, how much they spend, whether or not they hate parsley. There are numerous tech platforms nowadays to help restaurants access this mountain of information, but historically that’s meant handling a tablet or mobile device along with all the other items restaurant staff juggle.
Guest-management platform Sevenrooms wants to change that by making it possible to access vital customer information using your voice.
The NYC-based company’s software platform already lets restaurants track customer data points in real time and access that information quickly to provide guests with more personalized service. Now the company is doubling-down on voice tech, which it believes will be the key tool for collecting and inputing customer data into restaurant systems of the future.
The company, who has raised $21.5 million to date, received an investment for an undisclosed sum from the Amazon Alexa Fund in late 2018 and has been working on an Alexa skill ever since to help restaurants access customer data faster and more seamlessly, and without having to use their hands.
“That’s a thing that would have originally required a GM to be looking down at a tablet or some form of screen,” Allison Page, Sevenrooms’ cofounder and Chief Product Officer, says over the phone of getting customer data. “And Alexa’s going to make it so much easier to get [that information] hands free in the middle of service so they don’t have to interrupt that hospitality they’re providing.”
So long as a guest’s information is stored in the restaurant’s system (via, for example, a loyalty program), Alexa can access that information with a simple voice command. For example, a GM could ask Alexa who is sitting at Table 5 and be told it’s a local customer who’s spent a total of $5,000 at the restaurant over the course of time and is celebrating an anniversary that night. The GM could then send over a giftcard, dessert or some other token of appreciation for the guest that would both personalize their experience that night and, hopefully, keep them coming back.
In certain settings, it might seem superfluous to add a voice layer to a system. But restaurants are inherently chaotic settings where multitasking reigns supreme and staff quite literally have their hands full most of the time with trays of food that could easily be spilled and damage a touchscreen device. Going hands-free with voice-enabled technology is potentially a far more seamless way of integrating guest management into a restaurant’s system. Page says the skill can also tell a user things like how much revenue a restaurant has booked that night and how that number compares to previous nights, if a guest has dietary restrictions, and even if they wrote any recent reviews of the restaurant.
The system also works the other way around. If a server or GM learns, for example, that a guest just moved to the neighborhood, they can tell Alexa to input that data into the guest’s profile to store as information for future visits.
All of this can be done without the user ever having to log into the Sevenrooms system, and that’s at the heart of Sevenrooms’ Alexa integration: bringing tech into the restaurant without letting it take over a la tablet hell.
Page demonstrated this at the 2019 NRN show by donning a pair of Alexa-enabled glasses and showing the audience how she could ask the skill questions about a restaurant guest and have the information appear right on the lens.
Whether its glasses, watches, or some other wearable device that’s the future of voice tech is yet to be determined. While voice tech in the restaurant has gotten a lot of press lately thanks to McDonald’s acquisition of Apprente, it’s still early days for the technology’s place in restaurants, and there are still challenges to work through. For example, Page says one of the current hurdles for Sevenrooms is getting Alexa to properly understand voice commands and questions in the middle of a noisy dining room. The company is currently working with Amazon on solving this issue.
There’s also the question of whether restaurants will sign up for yet-another piece of tech, and one they can’t even put their hands on. Page doesn’t seem terribly concerned about this, however. As she sees it, the benefits of “not having to take your eyes off the dining room and not having to take your eyes off the guest” will prove valuable enough to the customer to justify making voice tech a central part of a restaurant’s guest management system.