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Asking Alexa: What’s for dinner?

Amazon Echo and Google Home become marketing voice for restaurants

As Amazon’s voice-activated Echo products and rival brand Google Home work their way into more households, restaurants are hoping to get a piece of the artificially intelligent action. 

The cloud-based voice services are the hottest tech toy of 2017, allowing users to play music, find recipes or set a timer with a simple verbal command, along with many other things.

Both products, for example, will list restaurants near any particular location, if asked. But Amazon is taking its relationship with restaurants even further, allowing users of the Echo and its related products to “ask Alexa,” as its female voice is named, to order restaurant meals for delivery. 

Amazon Prime members have been able to order free restaurant delivery in an hour or less since 2015 through the website and app. The service is available in 20 cities across the U.S., including thousands of restaurants. That geographic coverage is growing. Amazon, after all, knows a bit about delivery logistics.

Using Alexa to order delivery hands-free makes it that much easier. The only caveat: customers can only order through Alexa if they have ordered delivery in the past through Amazon.com. For a first-time order, it’s not practical for Alexa verbally to list all menu items.

But if guests have ordered before, Alexa can pull up the customer’s order history from a specific restaurant or cuisine type and list the meal options available for reorder.

Amazon delivery has no fees for Prime members, and no menu markups.

The cost to restaurants, however, is unclear. Amanda Ip, a spokesperson for Amazon Restaurants, says she couldn’t disclose details, but restaurants have to be a part of Amazon’s family of merchants.

To do that, the first step is to contact Amazon through amazon.com/restaurants-merchants. The company, however, looks for certain criteria and considers customer input in deciding which restaurants to work with.

“We want to include restaurants our customers want to order from, and that will vary by city,” she says.

Recently, DineTime has added another feature that will help consumers use Alexa to decide where to eat out. Guests can ask the wait time at their restaurant of choice.

DineTime is a restaurant network of QSR Automations, the Louisville, Ky.-based provider of restaurant hardware and software. The company provides table management, kitchen display systems and other services to more than 70,000 restaurants around the world.

Because QSR Automations is already tapped into restaurant guest lists and kitchen systems, that data can be used to predict wait times at any of their client restaurants.

Soon, guests may also be able to use Alexa to put their names on a waiting list or make a reservation, said Lee Leet, founder and CEO of QSR Automations.

And in 2017, Alexa’s voice-activated technology will also be incorporated into the DineTime app to allow guests a hands-free way to ask about restaurant wait times, even if they don’t have an Echo or related product, Leet said.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AMAZON RESTAURANT DELIVERY

Amazon Restaurant delivery is available for free to Prime members only. 

To get your restaurant listed by Alexa for delivery to Prime members, contact Amazon Restaurants to join their family of merchants: amazon.com/restaurants-merchants. Keep in mind Amazon considers consumer requests for restaurant delivery.

Amazon Restaurant delivery is available in Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Houston; Los Angeles; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Manhattan; Miami; Minneapolis; Northern Virginia; Orlando, Fla.; San Diego; the San Francisco Bay area; Seattle; and Tampa.

Find out whether your restaurant is within your city’s service area. Delivery might be available in your city, but not necessarily your neighborhood, though Amazon’s geographic coverage is growing rapidly.

TAGS: Trends
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