Voice AI: Changing the Sound of Restaurants and Transforming the Ordering Experience

March 31, 2023
Barbara Castiglia

Takeout and delivery are as much the fabric of restaurants today as a room full of diners. During the pandemic, many restaurants may not have made it out the other side without takeout and delivery services. Still, staffing shortages are a significant issue for most restaurants after the pandemic. Finding the balance between handling orders over the phone and giving in-person diners the experience they came to a restaurant for in the first place can be a struggle when staff is at a minimum. Sadly, many restaurants have had to reduce operating hours to manage the ongoing crisis. But what if there was a way to help elevate the burden on restaurant staff, keep in-person guests satisfied with their experience, and keep up with phone orders? Could Voice AI technology provide opportunities to take more orders, maximize sales, control operation costs, optimize margins, and reduce staffing challenges?

The Main Course’s Barbara Castiglia is always searching for innovations and innovators who bring technology solutions to the restaurant industry. In this episode, she finds someone who is doing just that. Ben Bellettini, Vice President of Sales for Restaurants at SoundHound, spoke with Castiglia about the challenges restaurants face and how voice AI transforms restaurant ordering. What do Bellettini and his team do at SoundHound that is changing the restaurant ordering game?

“We see a key opportunity to support the restaurant industry with automation that faces both consumers for ordering purposes, but also for staff with employee-assist technology,” Bellettini said. “I oversee all of the merchant experience related to working with SoundHound. We work with SMB merchants, all the way up to some of your largest QSR restaurants, in several different use cases; it could be phone voice AI for consumers calling in asking questions or placing orders; it could be drive-thru or kiosks, there are a number of different use cases.”

Castiglia and Bellettini’s conversation includes the following:

SoundHound’s development of voice AI technology to assist with restaurant training and ordering capabilities.

Technology innovations customers look for and demand from the restaurant of today.

The pandemic’s effect on continual technology innovations in the restaurant space.

“Look at third-party DSPs and what we were forced to do,” Bellettini said of challenges during the pandemic. “There’s almost these macro or climate-level impacts that forced the hand of the restaurant industry to adopt technology. A lot of that was through enabling in-house delivery, leaning into that, or adding on third-party delivery. Well, we are seeing another critical macro event happening in the restaurant industry, which is this crucial labor impact. Because of this environment, we’re seeing a much more rapid adoption of our products.”

Ben Bellettini is a driven and adept sales leader, seasoned in scaling sales organizations from the ground up. Bellettini Identifies exceptional talent and pushes personnel to reach their potential. He seeks ownership and accountability to fuel performance and surfaces and solves problems before their impact becomes apparent. Bellettini is proud to say he operates to serve vs. be served and equips himself to do more with less.

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