Marco’s Pizza

Bilingual Voice Assistants Will Soon Take Your Order at 1,000+ Marco’s Pizza Locations

Marco’s Pizza, a fast-growing chain of more than 1,000 locations, has begun embedding conversational AI into its ordering system. The voice assistant will take phone orders from customers and use speech-to-text tech to convey the order to the kitchen.

Pizza Time

The conversational AI used by Marco’s Pizza has two facets; one interacting with customers and taking orders, the other converts the conversation into a concise text for those making the pizza to read and follow. The idea is to speed up the order process as well as avoid making customers wait on hold when it’s busy. The conversational AI is designed to simulate a human, understanding accents and colloquialisms, and can interact in both English and Spanish. Marco’s Pizza is starting the AI rollout at 50 stores after a beta test last summer reported 100% order accuracy. The Ohio-based chain plans to embed the new system in every branch by the end of the year.

“There are places where AI makes sense within the business – where it creates a better experience for both team members and guests,” Marco’s Pizza chief information officer Rick Stanbridge said. “Not only does this technology offer franchisees a cost-effective, practical solution to reduce labor costs and drive results, but it provides support to team members while strengthening the guest experience.”

Food Talk

Though Marco’s Pizza doesn’t give specifics, the pilot process suggests they are partnering with an unnamed conversational AI developer for the project, rather than developing the technology in-house. The pool of possible partners encompasses a growing number of up-and-coming startups as well as tech giants like Google and Amazon. Brief research suggests Marco’s Pizza is working with restaurant conversational AI startup OpenCity. The Boston-based startup is known for its drive-thru voice assistant named Tori and has raised $7.6 million, mostly in a $6.8 million round last August. We’ve reached out to Marco’s Pizza and OpenCity for confirmation either way.

As mentioned, OpenCity is one of a plethora of new restaurant voice AI options appearing on the phone and in drive-thrus. Valyant AI recently scored a significant contract with Checkers & Rally’s to install its conversational AI system at franchisee-owned drive-thrus. Meanwhile, the restaurant chain’s corporate-owned locations are embedding a drive-thru voice assistant from hospitality AI firm Presto. Presto built its platform with conversational AI developer Hi Auto, who produced the voice assistant for another Ohio-born chain, Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken Restaurant. Wendy’s started to move toward voice tech a few months ago by partnering with Google Cloud as its tech provider for creating a voice assistant. And everyone is watching to see what IBM does after purchasing McD Tech Labs from McDonald’s to develop an automated drive-thru service.


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