Panera is testing automated voice ordering at two of its restaurants in Upstate New York. Panera is only one of the many in the food and beverage industry experimenting with AI driven technology. what-is-the-technology-that-panera-is-testing
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What is the technology that Panera is testing?

Panera recently announced that it would be testing OpenCity's proprietary AI voice ordering system, named Tori, at two of its drive-thru locations in New York, Greece, and Webster. As usual, customers can pull up at the drive-thru, but this time, they will place their orders with Tori before paying at the window. At this stage of experimentation, employees are directed to standby in case troubleshooting is required.

"At Panera, improving our guest experience is always our priority, and we are using this innovative technology to help enable a faster, more accurate order for each of our drive-thru guests," Debbie Roberts, executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. how-does-this-technology-work
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How does this technology work?

To place their order with Panera, customers can pull up to the drive-thru and speak their orders to Tori, the AI-backed voice ordering assistant. The technology, at this point, does not entirely eliminate the need for human assistance or supervision. Panera employees will be available at the spot to accept payments, assist, and troubleshoot when necessary. what-are-the-benefits-of-using-such-tech-assistance
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What are the benefits of using such tech assistance?

According to Panera and OpenCity, employing new ordering technology considerably reduces wait times, streamlines the ordering process, and enables employees to spend more time focusing on food preparation, leading to greater customer satisfaction.

"The potential of AI drive-thru technology is incredibly exciting for us. We are eager to evaluate the performance of these tests and the possibility of expanding this technology to additional bakery cafes," added Debbie Roberts. what-issues-does-tech-like-this-solve
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What issues does tech like this solve?

The COVID pandemic saw an extreme surge in drive-thru ordering, and the channel is still benefiting hugely from tailwinds. According to reports by the market research company, The NPD Group, drive-thru orders grew by 20% between February 2020 and 2022. In the year ending February, non-digital orders increased by 20%. The rise has pushed restaurants and fast-food chains, in particular, to focus on quick service and order accuracy. Panera is one of the first sandwich chains to capitalize on this and provide a refinement to their drive-thru experience.

But they are not the only ones. Several fast-casual restaurants are looking to grow their drive-thru presence. These include Shake Shack, Chipotle, Sweetgreen, and McDonald's. This improvement can be seen on the full-service side, too, with restaurants such as Smokey Bones and Applebee's. But Panera remains leagues ahead of its peers, with 45% of its over 2,000 locations having a drive-thru. is-this-paneras-first-foray-into-automation
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Is this Panera’s first foray into automation?

This is not Panera's first foray into automation. In April this year, the brand announced that it would be testing the Miso Robotics CookRight Coffee system that monitors volume, temperature, brewing time, and customer demand. A few months later, in June, the bakery-cafe opened its first digital-only takeout location, Panera To-Go in Chicago. The store has no dining rooms, and two more of these are slated for launch in Washington D.C. and California. The improvement in the drive-thru experience with Tori is just one of Panera's tech-forward moves. which-other-notable-brands-have-embraced-ai-voice-ordering
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Which other notable brands have embraced AI voice ordering

Another major brand in the Restaurant Industry testing AI voice ordering is McDonald's, which has conducted a 24-store test in Illinois. The global financial services firm, BTIG, found the accuracy to be in the low 80% range. The goal set for the experiment was 95% and above.

In 2019, McDonald's acquired Apprente, a well-established name in voice-based technology. Two years later, the burger giant sold it to IBM, with the hope that they would use their expertise to develop and scale the automation of ordering systems.

McDonald's, however, has not disclosed whether it will be launching the technology nationally or even globally. Peter Saleh, the managing director of BTIG, said that he expects voice ordering systems to continue to evolve and be ready for broader adoption later in the year.

What you should know about the company behind “Tori”

Panera is using OpenCity's voice-ordering system, called Tori. Since people in the restaurant space build the tech involved, they understand the intricacies of creating solutions for the industry. OpenCity, with this unique understanding, has been able to change the way restaurants communicate with their customers. Their proprietary Ai Tech voice assistant that takes orders with 99.9% accuracy is most certainly making the drive-thru experience easier and perhaps more enjoyable in the United States. It also leaves restaurants with more bandwidth to dedicate to their operations while creating new streams of revenue for their business and improving Customer Service.

The startup has raised $6.82 million from private investors, catapulting the company's valuation to $2.82 million, according to PitchBook, a research and data firm focusing on venture capital, private equity, and M&A transactions.

Their tech, so far, is being used by more than two dozen restaurants. OpenCity formed a partnership with Popeyes franchisee, the High Noon Restaurant Group, earlier this year. The group's CEO, David Damato, said, "The AI-voice ordering system surpassed their expectations and is one of the most innovative technologies I've ever seen. At a single-restaurant test at Popeyes in Louisiana, the Tori realized a 20% faster speed of service, 150% more drinks, and 99.9% ordering accuracy."