Panera Bread is one of the first national restaurant chains to begin offering voice-activated ordering and payment through Google Assistant.
The voice-activated ordering is currently available in Panera’s hometown of St. Louis and (naturally enough) at its six locations in the Silicon Valley area. A full rollout of voice ordering is expected to come to all of Panera’s 2,000-plus U.S. locations by the end of the year, the company says.
Panera joins other national brands that have formally aligned with Google’s voice-activated virtual assistant to accept spoken orders via the delivery marketplace Google Express, including Costco, Guitar Center, Kohl’s, L’Occitane, Payless, PetSmart, Road Runner Sports, Sur La Table, Ulta, Walgreens, Amazon’s Whole Foods, and most recently, Walmart’s 4,700 stores.
Panera’s move reflects how rapidly the adoption of Connected Intelligence and the use of other voice-activated digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby are entering the mainstream of consumer behavior.
Aside from that wider trend, Panera’s decision also follows an aggressive omnichannel focus for the fast casual dining chain since the inception of its Panera 2.0 program in 2014.
In an other example Panera’s race to incorporate more digital touchpoints designed to connect consumers to its locations, in May, Panera Bread was among the first restaurants to adopt the “embedded menu search” in Google My Business.
The chain’s moves appear to be paying off. In June, the company said that digital sales at Panera from mobile, web, or kiosk exceeded $1 billion. That number could double in 2019, Panera forecast. Panera’s end-to-end digital pathways, including Rapid Pickup, Fast Lane Kiosks, Catering and Delivery, is driven by the recognition by brick-and-mortar brands to create a services rooted in personalization and giving customers “what they want, however they want.”
“With more than 1.3 Million digital orders placed a week at Panera, there is a clear demand for voice-activated ordering methods, and this integration with Google is a step towards an even better guest experience,” said Ron Shaich, Panera’s Founder, Chairman and CEO.
In terms of how it works, users who have the Google Assistant app on their Android or iPhones can start by saying the usual “Okay, Google” and then asking for delivery or “Okay Google, talk to Panera.”
The Panera app for the Google Assistant will show users the menu, suggest past food based off of the person’s history, and walk the user through the list of available items. Users will pay from their saved wallet information (“with proper authentication”).
Panera’s voice-activated ordering integrates with MyPanera, the brand’s loyalty program which boasts more than 27 million members.
In addition to Panera’s Rapid Pick-Up service, the recently launched Panera Delivery, will be available for voice-activated ordering as well.
“Voice-activated ordering powered by artificial intelligence is the future. We know the industry is in its infancy,” says Blaine Hurst, Panera’s president. “While we know we still have a lot to learn, we’re proud to develop, test and refine this capability in partnership with Google. In the long run, the ease and convenience will be meaningful to our guests. In fact, placing a voice-activated order in many cases is more than 80 percent faster than a traditional app order.”