Chipotle Adds Voice Assistant to Every Store, Launches Alexa Skill for Reordering Favorite Meals
Chipotle’s custom voice assistant is handling phone orders for all 2,500 branches of the popular fast-casual Mexican chain. The company announced comprehensive extension of its pilot program in tandem with the launch of its new Amazon Alexa skill. The voice app lets users order their favorite meal from Chipotle for pickup or delivery. The combined announcements mark a milestone in the restaurant industry’s efforts to integrate voice technology into its services.
Chipotle’s voice assistant is designed to simulate calling in an order to a human at the restaurant. The assistant guides callers through the menu, filling in details about their order and letting them know when it would be read. It asks questions and follows up with suggestions for drinks and other extras. Once the order is in place, the AI can take payment over the phone and all the caller has to do is head to the counter or the special drive-thru lane called the ‘Chipotlane’ and pick up the order. The AI isn’t perfect, but if it doesn’t understand what a caller is saying, it will transfer the call over to a human employee.
The Chipotle Alexa skill is more efficient, but much more limited than the voice AI. Once the skill is enabled on an Alexa-powered device and connected to a Chipotle Rewards profile, the user just has to ask Alexa to tell Chipotle to order their favorite for pickup or delivery. The restriction of the order to whatever meal is marked as a favorite on the app might annoy those who like to order different things, but if you have a go-to choice that you always want to order, it does speed up the process even compared to using the mobile app. The reorder-only rule isn’t unique to Chipotle. Alexa only allows favorites to be ordered through the Starbucks and Seamless skills, for instance.
Chipotle is running an unusual promotion connected to the new skill and to highlight that there are now more than seven million Chipotle Rewards members. The restaurant chain is offering a free Echo Dot smart speaker to any Chipotle Rewards member named Alexa, although the company didn’t say which version it is giving away.
“We always strive to introduce additional access points in the Chipotle ordering experience and overall digital ecosystem,” Chipotle vice president of digital strategy and product management Nicole West said in a statement. “With this new skill for Alexa, our customers can get their favorite Chipotle orders delivered straight to their door in the most convenient way possible – all they need to do is ask.”
Fast Food Voice Assistants
Chipotle first started a pilot program for the voice assistant at 10 restaurants back in 2018 but had announced plans to extend it to every branch by the end of this year. Other take-out restaurants are experimenting with using voice technology to streamline their services as well. Denver’s Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard added a voice assistant created by Valyant AI to one of its drive-thrus earlier this year. The successful test run has led Good Times to add this technology to new locations. Interestingly, Denver was where the first Chipotle opened back in 1993.
Chipotle’s former largest investor McDonald’s has made a stir in this arena as well. McDonald’s acquired voice tech startup Apprente this summer specifically to help develop voice assistant-powered drive-thrus that it is already testing in Illinois. Apprente and its tech are also the core around which McDonald’s is creating the new McD Labs, a research and development lab based in Silicon Valley. As the big names work out the best applications of voice technology for their businesses, an AI voice will likely become a more common element of fast food.