While human efforts have for long dominated every business, chatbots are now taking control of some functions that require less human intervention. Customer service is one such area where chatbots are slowing taking over. Chatbots are messaging applications that assist users in getting information on specific services. For instance, customers no longer need to speak to a customer support executive; instead a chatbot can perform the same function and answer customer queries. Examples of chatbots include Siri and Google Assistant that are embedded in platforms such as Facebook Messenger.

Chatbots vs humans in restaurant business
Chatbots vs humans in restaurant business

As chatbots take over monotonous functions, organizations can allot more strategic and crucial tasks to their employees thereby making better use of human resources. Chatbots have come a long way from being robotic to act more human-like.

Restaurant businesses can make use of chatbots for taking orders and perform help-desk functions such as table-booking and allotting time slots. For instance, customers can order their favourite item by texting a chatbot either through a Facebook Messenger or similar apps. Also, chatbots are more effective than websites or apps in providing a personalized experience for customers. They eliminate the need for customers to download restaurant apps or browse multiple pages on the website to place an order. They help in reducing the time spent by restaurant employees on order processing as order taking becomes automated. Taco Bell has a chatbot called Slack app which helps customers place customized food orders.

Some of the key advantages that chatbots provide are:

  • Understand customer preferences
  • Identify problem areas
  • Better order management
  • Less scope for errors
  • Any time service
  • Undivided attention and better customer treatment

Chatbots can therefore increase the number of transactions and improve the trust factor which is vital to establish a long standing relationship between the consumer and the restaurant. Chatbots can also double up as data specialists and help the restaurant management devise better product, marketing and delivery strategies based on consumer feedback and data analysis. As chatbots get smarter, consumer experience and business prospects would also get better.  

While technology can be a blessing, there can be a flipside too. Initial hiccups in terms of design and technical glitches could hamper user experience and ultimately affect business profitability. Therefore, restaurants should make calculated moves and should not entrust chatbots with major or sensitive tasks. A gradual scale up based on initial results and feasibility should be done to make best use of chatbots.

As chatbots are not driven by artificial intelligence, there are limitations in terms of answers that they provide to customers. As they are mostly improvised versions of digital ordering or restaurants’ handheld kiosks, these chatbots can fulfill simple tasks and at least execute simple orders. For executing complex or customized orders, chatbots may not be able to match their human counterparts. Also, the emotional connect can never be there as chatbots can only follow a standard procedure. Customers too might be offended by standard recorded replies instead of a valid and logical explanation.

However, in course of time with the advancement in technology, chatbots could become smarter and enhance the consumer experience by simplifying complex tasks and probably remember consumer preferences and save them the time in repeat orders. They may also succeed in bringing in the human touch.

As the benefits outweigh the shortcomings, restaurant businesses could gain from the use of chatbots as they help save on time and costs and channelize the human effort on more constructive and creative tasks. It is therefore advisable for restaurant businesses to make a valid assessment of their products and scale of operations and accordingly deploy chatbots. This would help in bringing them the technological and competitive edge to score over the peers in the restaurant industry.

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