- Amazon will bring its voice technology to restaurants next year with the help of SevenRooms, announced the upstart seating and guest management platform in a release. With investment from Amazon's Alexa Fund, the hospitality tech company will harness existing features in the Alexa Skills Kit to build a skill specific to restaurant operators, such as the ability to ask Alexa what certain guests usually order or to remind service staff of guest requests. Diners will be able to make a reservation using Alexa with any SevenRooms' partner restaurant.
- SevenRooms, which helps businesses in 100 cities worldwide build more personalized experiences through robust customer profiles, will be Amazon's first hospitality-specific investment. The company secured $8 million in funding from Comcast Ventures last December.
- "Hospitality operators have long relied on an interface or screen to access information, taking attention away from their guests and operations. Voice eliminates this need, enabling them to shift their attention back to what matters most: the guest," said SevenRooms founder and CEO Joel Montaniel in the release.
Just as online reservations transformed the way restaurants and diners begin their relationship, Amazon could be angling to take that connection to the next level — from computer screen to omniscient voice. This collaboration marks the first time Amazon has partnered with a restaurant technology company and could be a step toward Alexa's relevance in commerce settings outside the home.
Amazon already has numerous Alexa skills for diners, Skift Table reported. They can book reservations on OpenTable, as well as order delivery from Grubhub, Seamless and Amazon Restaurants. Domino's and Wingstop both have specific Alexa skills, while Texas Roadhouse and TGI Friday’s, among others, let consumers add themselves to a waitlist using Echo.
SevenRooms' Montaniel argues in the release that technology in restaurants has always been very transactional. By using data, especially in real-time, voice technology could help restaurant staff offer more personalized guest experiences and make more informed decisions on the fly. Establishments can also connect now-ubiquitous cloud-based technology with emerging trends in voice commands to keep staff more connected with guests, rather than looking down at a screen. Customers, meanwhile, will also be able to access their profile and adjust what restaurant operators can see, taming some potential privacy concerns.
In fine-dining restaurants in particular, voice technology might seem intrusive on the surface, but New York City's Union Square Hospitality Group has equipped managers and sommeliers with Apple Watches since 2016. Reservation system Resy developed ResyOS, an effort to combine reservations, mobile payments, POS and on-the-floor communications. The resulting app allows a manager, for example, to ping the sommelier when a table has selected a bottle of wine, eliminating the need to print a paper ticket and ultimately speeding up service.
The collaboration between SevenRooms and Amazon, though, might still be a bit ahead of the curve. Currently more than 60 million U.S. consumers use voice technology to search and place orders, and up to 20% of Google searches happen through voice commands, Forbes reported. However, younger consumers are still the main drivers of voice technology, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
It's possible that right now this technology might only benefit large-scale operations that already equip staff with headsets, for instance, or high-cost, tasting-menu restaurants that rely on personalized customer data. Nonetheless, it's an interesting development and, since funded by Amazon, one to watch.