PolyAI Voice Assistant Starts Taking Phone Orders for Beefeater Restaurants
An AI host will reserve a table for Beefeater restaurant customers calling ahead, courtesy of enterprise voice assistant developer PolyAI. Beefeater parent firm Whitbread PLC struck a deal to embed PolyAI’s virtual guest service agents in all 173 Beefeater locations in the UK and anticipates the AI handling more than 700,000 table bookings a year.
The Whitbread Digital Host from PolyAI employs the startup’s platform for natural language interaction on the phone to understand and set reservations for the restaurant, as well as answer queries about the location and Beefeater restaurants in general. Whitbread and PolyAI began working on and testing the digital host a few years ago as a solution to making sure every call is answered and reservations made without eating up too much of the serving staff’s time. The AI will save Beefeater staff 2.25 million minutes a year on the phone, according to PolyAI. The voice AI was also specifically trained so that it can understand any British regional accent, no matter how strong, an important consideration for a chain geographically scattered across the country.
“The introduction and launch of the new Digital Host by PolyAI across our Beefeater restaurants is an exciting development for our business and has come at a key time,” Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants managing director Simon Ewins said. “It has meant that our teams have been able to focus on what they do best – delivering excellent guest care. The team at PolyAI have worked in partnership with us to develop a system that is unique to Whitbread, and we look forward to seeing how our business, guests and teams can benefit from the new service.”
Voice AI in some form is rapidly becoming more common in restaurants. SoundHound recently inked a deal with Square that will accelerate that trend by integrating its phone-based voice assistant for restaurants with Square’s popular payment service. Restaurant chains are eager to sing onto tech that can save them money and time while keeping customers satisfied. That’s why the Marcos Pizza chain debuted a voice assistant and Checkers struck deals with both Valyant AI and Presto to embed a drive-thru voice assistant at its franchises and corporate-owned locations, respectively. And McDonald’s hasn’t slowed its pilot testing of a voice assistant after selling McD Tech Labs to IBM and beginning a collaboration to develop an automated drive-thru service late last year.
Anticipating this trend has garnered PolyAI $28 million from investors following a $14 million round last fall. The company claims its voice AI can handle 95% of incoming calls for its mix of banking, hospitality, and telecom clients. Whitbread and Beefeater fits with its work on custom voice AI that public-facing businesses are increasingly eager to adopt.
“We are thrilled to be working with Whitbread. PolyAI is obsessed with delivering better customer experiences and so is Whitbread,” PolyAI CEO Nikola Mrksic said. “Together we have been able to deliver a game-changing voice assistant with customer experience at its core.”