Alexa Can Now Place Panera Orders by Voice Like a Drive-Thru Window in Your Home
Panera Bread has introduced a new Amazon Alexa Skill enabling customers to order food for pick-up or delivery by voice through an Echo Show smart display if they have signed up for MyPanera membership. The restaurant chain’s voice app is the first to employ Amazon’s recently enhanced Food Skill API, which more deeply integrates Panera’s menu with Alexa’s conversational abilities.
Alexa Bakes-In Panera
The new skill embeds Panera into Alexa almost to the point of being treated like a native, first-party feature. MyPanera members with a stored payment method and an address for deliveries, can start their order through any Echo Show smart display model by asking, “Alexa, order Panera Bread.” They can then immediately place an order, reorder something they’ve had before, or ask the voice assistant for information about menu items. The improved Food Skill API means Alexa can answer questions about what’s on the menu or narrow down options based on specific ingredients. Amazon and Panera worked together to teach Alexa Panera’s menu so it can respond to questions using natural language.
“While our guests love the Panera app, we know there are times where it’s just more convenient to be hands-free and order by voice, and we are thrilled to work with Amazon to design and offer another convenient way to order Panera,” Panera Bread chief digital officer George Hansonn said. “We’re continuing to push the boundaries of what we can do to make our MyPanera members’ lives easier, and we’re just at the beginning of what is possible in the world of conversational commerce.”
Restaurants experimenting with employing voice AI for drive-thrus and phone orders are mushrooming. Recent synthetic speech and generative AI improvements have only accelerated the process. Panera has already integrated a voice assistant for the drive-thru lanes at a couple of its restaurants in Rochester, NY. Drivers pulling up to those stores interact with Tori, the virtual assistant powered by Boston-based voice AI hospitality startup OpenCity. AI assistants are also becoming more common when calling restaurants to place orders, as evidenced by Marcos Pizza and the restaurants signed on with SoundHound after it inked a deal with Square to add its phone-based voice assistant for restaurants with Square’s popular payment service. There are also plenty of independent voice AI developers working on drive-thru projects. For instance, Checkers struck deals with both Valyant AI and Presto to embed a drive-thru voice assistant at its franchises and corporate-owned locations, respectively. Presto has even begun experimenting with incorporating the conversational model underlying ChatGPT. Still, Panera does stand out as the first to employ the new Alexa Food Skills API.
“Ordering with Alexa gives customers an easy and natural way to connect with their favorite restaurants at-home,” Alexa Skills general manager and director Mark Yoshitake said. “Panera is the first to use our updated Alexa Food Skills API which incorporates state-of the-art techniques in conversational AI to make the ordering process through Alexa more intuitive. Now, customers can reorder their favorite meal, ask to add avocado and bacon to their sandwich, or track their delivery without having to pick up their phone, or open an app.”