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Facing labor shortage, pizza franchise turns to AI phone bot

Jet's Pizza says OrderAI Talk frees up employees, keeps consumers from enduring long wait times and is an option for those who prefer using the phone to text ordering.

Pizza lovers who called Jet's Pizza between December 2021 and March 2022 might have encountered an AI phone bot that takes pizza orders.

During those four months, Jet's Pizza, which has about 400 stores located primarily in Michigan, piloted OrderAI Talk in 70 of its stores. Customers who chose the bot rather than a traditional phone system received a discount on their order. At the end of the four months, Jet's Pizza expanded the AI phone bot to all its stores.

The franchise's pilot of OrderAI Talk was part of its relationship with HungerRush, a cloud software provider for restaurants, said Aaron Nilsson, CIO and CDO of Jet's Pizza, based in Sterling, Mich. HungerRush was testing the product before making it available for all its customers.

Nilsson said that after joining the company in 2019, he wanted to reduce the number of sale systems in the restaurant chain's ecosystem. Knowing that several store owners liked HungerRush and that the vendor understood the effects of digital on ordering, Nilsson kept the vendor as one of two sale systems.

He also referred HungerRush to OrderAI, a text and voice ordering provider for restaurants. HungerRush later acquired OrderAI in 2020.

OrderAI Talk

OrderAI Talk is for customers who prefer to place orders over the phone, Nilsson said.

A good percentage of our overall user base is just hooked on the phones.
Aaron NilssonCIO and CDO, Jet's Pizza

"A good percentage of our overall user base is just hooked on the phones," he said. "I'd love to get them off the phones, because I would really like the people in our stores to be focused on making pizzas."

A majority of orders taken by the AI bot are correct, Nilsson said, but he acknowledged that there have been times when customers have complained that their orders were wrong.

OrderAI Talk can be integrated with menus so that customers can easily customize their orders. The AI system can learn consumer behavior and offer regular customers products they might like based on previous purchases.

The real winners of the shift to the phone bot are restaurant employees, who appreciate a reduction of call volume on busy days, Nilsson said.

"You can feel the stress level drop by having 35% less calls," he said. "They get to focus on just the part of the job that they love, which is making the pizzas."

For employees, OrderAI Talk feels just like having an order come in through the web. "For all intents and purposes, it's a digital order that came in, which they're very well prepped to handle because about 60% of our orders are digital anyway," Nilsson said.

Labor shortage

It also helps to solve the problem of labor that restaurants face.

The restaurant industry still has not reached pre-pandemic employment levels and was down nearly 800,000 jobs as of April, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Currently, 132 Jet's Pizza stores give consumers the option to use OrderAI Talk. The franchise has also released party ordering, which uses AI to construct large orders.

"This concept of an AI engine assisting you through the technology, it's just a way better experience," Nilsson said. "The ability to type it into your phone via text or into the browser -- or just speak out loud with what you want. It's really freeing. It's very nice. It's where all of this is going to evolve."

On Aug. 9, HungerRush made OrderAI Talk available to customers. HungerRush will charge customers a percentage of the orders made with OrderAI Talk.

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