Subway is latest restaurant chain to offer chatbot ordering
Subway is making restaurant news this week after they announced the launch of a new chatbot, called the Subway Order Bot, for Facebook Messenger that allows customers to order from over 26,500 Subway restaurants across the U.S. The announcement was made Tuesday at the F8 Facebook Developer Conference and is the latest digital initiative for Subway, which already offers online ordering through its website and mobile app.
Chatbots, gaining in popularity throughout the hospitality industry, are artificial intelligence messaging platforms that simulate (as best it can) real-life, one-on-one human conversations. According to Forrester Research, only 4% of companies have a chatbot feature for their customers. And, now, Subway Restaurants, the world’s largest restaurant brand, adds itself to that list.
Subway customers can access the “bot” through Facebook’s messenger app, Messenger.com, or from facebook.com/subway, where they will the be guided by the bot in a semi-interactive, conversational manner to choose a location for pick up, create their order, and complete payment. The food should be ready in-store within 15 minutes of ordering. The Subway Order Bot, like others of its kind, seeks to appeal with an informal, youthful tone of voice, asking users "Hey! You hungry? Let's get you some food before anybody gets HANGRY."
According to Carman Wenkoff, Subway’s Chief Information and Digital Officer, the new bot is “the largest deployment of a Messenger bot in the restaurant industry” and is a part of Subway Digital’s “quest to enhance the guest experience.”
Formed in 2016, Subway Digital is dedicated exclusively to “innovating the brand’s digital properties,” and they are also expected to hire more than 150 new employees in the near future to support Subway’s “omnichannel approach” and digital initiatives.
Subway is by no means the only restaurant chain or fast food franchise to invest in chatbot technology. Wingstop, Pizza Hut, Burger King, and Taco Bell are also leveraging automated chat-ordering platforms across multiple channels like Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and Slack.
Many companies see this chatbot technology as a way to stay competitive, particularly for mobile users who like to order online but may not want to take the time to download individual applications for each restaurant they visit. By offering a bot through a social media platform like Facebook Messenger, restaurants are able to improve the user’s ordering experience by condensing the number of steps they might otherwise have to go take to place a simple order.
Still, ordering food through a chatbot is by no means commonplace yet as the full potential of the technology is yet to be seen by big brands and consumers alike. Despite the human-like interaction with a chatbot, the technology is still fairly limited in that it’s likely to fall short in more complicated situations where the customer has a highly customized order or a multi-step problem that needs to be solved.