by George Nott

Domino’s serves up voice assistant and automation for franchisees

Mar 01, 2017
Retail Industry

Domino’s has released a voice assistant so customers can order pizza by chatting to a bot, an Australian first in the quick serve restaurant industry, the company said.

The assistant – DRU Assist – has a natural language voice engine powered by Nuance and works on Domino’s Android and iOS apps. Users can text their conversation if preferred in-app and on the company website.

At its second Abacus technology event in Sydney this morning, Domino’s said it saw the opportunity in extending the order bot to third party voice assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo.

Although these devices were not yet available in Australia, “when they are we really want to be ready,” said Domino’s digital project manager Candice Cummings.

“It’s more than just a new way to order on every single Domino’s interface. We’re wanting to stretch this further. We’re dreaming big. We’re thinking about how can this offer a customer experience beyond our own ordering platforms,” she said.

“You don’t want to get your mobile phone out, you’re in your home, you just want to say ‘I want pizza now DRU’, and you want to customise it and get it delivered to you. That’s where we see this vision going.”

Cummings gave a demonstration of the assistant, which is programmed with ‘added personality’ – phrases like “it’s always pizza time” and “I thought you sounded hungry”.

From opening the app to the order confirmation, ordering two pizzas took just under two minutes in the demo.

Asked how it compared to simply phoning a pizza shop, Domino’s group CEO Don Meij said DRU Assist improved the customer experience.

“The thing about telephone order is that often you know you’re coming live into a pizza shop,” he said. “When you’re coming live into a pizza shop there’s a lot of tension that comes with that. It’s not in your own time. What people value about this is it’s your own pace and speed, and your own privacy and your own way.”

Using the bot also had the benefit of post-order features like GPS driver tracking, Meij added.

A beta version goes live on Monday, to help it train and learn, ahead of a full roll-out on March 20.

Tech topping

DRU Assist was one of a number of technology announcements made at the event.

Domino’s also spruiked a Facebook bot which is unable at present to fulfil orders, but can give users easier access to local coupons. Deal vouchers were among the most popular searches on the Domino’s website, the company said, and the bot provided a quicker way to access them.

Another release, Domino’s Anywhere would be available in a month’s time, a feature which allows customers to drop a location pin using GPS for stores to deliver to locations without specific street addresses, like a park or beach.

The company was also offering new technology to its franchisees and store managers. Automated rostering tools and automated stock processing, powered by machine learning, were helping ‘behind the scenes’, the company said.

“Stores are busier than ever, stores are at capacity and we need to continue to find ways to alleviate pressure in that environment,” said Michael Gillespie, group chief digital officer.

“All these things that our managers and franchisees have had to do on a manual basis in the past taking that away from them and helping give them back their time.”

The releases were part of a new approach to technology by Domino’s Meij said.

“As of this year Domino’s as a company will move from a ‘mobile-first’ mindset to AI-first technology,” Meij said.

“DRU Assist, and AI, will become the leading future platform for ordering, management, marketing and delivery as part of the DRU Platform, a machine learning and AI ecosystem.”