Dubbed HungerRush TextAI, the new feature uses natural language processing to interpret and place orders that come in via SMS. The new product is the result of HungerRush’s acquisition of OrdrAI last December. In its press announcement today, HungerRush said that TextAI works better than traditional phone or other employee-assisted formats by virtually eliminating order errors.
Text AI also integrates with HungerRush’s overall suite of products that include POS, delivery management, online ordering, mobile app, reporting and management, payment processing, and loyalty program.
HungerRush’s TextAI product launch comes at an interesting moment for AI integration for restaurants. Artificial Intelligence-driven software grabbed headlines last year as Kea, Clinc and even Google all had products that used natural language processing to hold “conversations” with restaurant customers. The promise, of course is that AI can take over incoming customer orders, allowing humans to perform more food creation and order expediting.
But in a signal that AI might not work as well as had been predicted, news broke this week that McDonald’s may sell Dynamic Yield, the AI startup it acquired in 2019. Granted, Dynamic Yield’s implementation of AI is more about creating dynamic menus that improved upselling (e.g., it’s cold outside, the menu highlighted warm beverages), so it’s a bit apples to oranges when compared with text-to-order. But if McDonald’s reportedly couldn’t even get a 1 percent bump from its implementation of AI, that could impact how other restaurant chains perceive the overall value of AI.
That’s not to say restaurants will abandon AI altogether. All of these technologies are new, and, not for nothing, are being tested under the unusual conditions of a pandemic, which has us ordering more takeout and delivery. Restaurants, which are seeing diminished value in third-party delivery services, need to save money where they can. If AI-driven text-to-order can drive sales and help restaurants get more value out of their labor, then that will go a long way towards adoption.