McDonald’s Big AI Investment, How Google Books a Restaurant Reservation, and Toast’s Massive Funding Round

A man making a reservation
Google Expands Its AI Voiced-Enabled Restaurant Reservation-Making Service

Featured Stories from Restaurant Technology News

McDonald’s Goes Hog Wild on Technology, Acquires AI Company for $300 Million

Increasingly, fast food restaurants are using mobile apps, self-order kiosks, digital signage and various other digital technologies in their incessant quest to attract new customers, drive increased customer loyalty and increase overall customer profitability.

There is no shortage of high-profile campaigns that have been launched in recent months that have advanced the frontier on consumer-facing technologies while, in many cased, generating a lot of buzz.

For example, as reported here, Burger King recently launched a mobile app campaign that used geofencing to target customers who were within 600 feet of a McDonald’s in a bid to get them to rethink their purchase decision. Earlier this month, Chipotle made a big splash with a campaign in which customers who signed up for its rewards program through Venmo were showered with free cash.

Not to be outdone, McDonald’s has been especially ambitious with next-generation technology upgrades. The fast food giant has installed self-ordering kiosks in more 17,000 of its locations over the past year. Digital menu boards now adorn more than 21,000 locations.

Now McDonald’s is making its boldest and perhaps its most expensive move yet, by acquiring a technology solution provider, called Dynamic Yield, that uses artificial intelligence to drive customer personalization.

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Google Expands Its AI Voiced-Enabled Restaurant Reservation-Making Service

“Hey Google, book a table for 4 at Althea on Saturday at 8.”

Making a restaurant reservation has never been easier, thanks to artificial intelligence that now does the job for you. This week, Google announced that restaurant-goers in 43 states will soon be able use Google Assistant for the task. The new service uses AI capabilities powered by Google Duplex, which was introduced last year, to call any restaurant and make a reservation as requested.

Google announced that it has also rolled out the service to non-Pixel devices and iOS devices that have Google Assistant installed.

With Google Duplex, users can ask Google Assistant to make a reservation without having to look up a phone number, pick up a receiver, or talk to anyone. Duplex does all the work, talking to the restaurant staffer in a scary-accurate conversational manner. The voice sounds so real that it would be hard to know that it is a machine and not an a living, breathing person on the other end.

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Securing a $250 Million Funding Round, Toast Hits It Out of the Restaurant Technology Ballpark

With more than one million restaurants in the United States battling it out for a larger slice of the pie, and tens of millions around the world doing the same, finding new and innovative ways to increase revenues, reduce operating costs (e.g., by streamlining back-of-house operations) and enhance the overall quality of the guest experience is top of mind for most restaurant operators.

The good news is that many of their challenges can be effectively addressed with recent advancements in restaurant technology. In fact, according to new research conducted by Starfleet Research, 79 percent of restaurant operators believe that this new wave of advanced technologies is key to not only overcoming many of the biggest hurdles they face today but to driving continuous performance improvement.

It’s no wonder that the restaurant management and POS systems market will reach nearly $25 billion by 2025, according to some estimates, fueled by the simple fact that in a consumer landscape where consumer behaviors and expectations are undergoing rapid and dramatic change, technology can improve and even fundamentally transform the restaurant-going experience. According to the research, technology can also catapult businesses to ever-higher levels of operational efficiency and profitability.

One restaurant technology solution provider that has been riding the wave and has now become a breakout leader in the the world of next-generation restaurant technology is Boston-based Toast. This week, the company announced that it has raised $250 million in Series E funding at a whopping $2.7 billion valuation.

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Restaurant Technology News, published by Starfleet Media, is the hospitality industry’s premier source of information and insights related to technology innovation at the world’s leading restaurants.