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    Domino's Begins Testing Artificial Intelligence for Phone Orders

  • Can the technology improve accuracy for the pizza chain?

    Domino's
    Domino's has yet another delivery innovation in the works.

    One of the pros driving the mobile ordering revolution is accuracy. While restaurants around the country built their businesses off the call-in model, there was always a certain give-and-take with the human element. Want 12 toppings on your pizza? Just half the pizza and 12 different ones on the other side? Putting the task into the hands of a busy employee was always going to be a bit of ordering roulette.

    Domino’s has been no stranger to technology innovation when it comes to ordering, and like most chains, its efforts have been concentrated in the online arena. But call-in business isn’t going to evaporate anytime soon, and Domino’s has a plan to bring that side of its business into the next era as well.

    Enter artificial intelligence.

    Domino’s revealed Monday (April 23) that it’s launching a voice recognition application to take telephone orders coming into its stores. The pizza chain, which conducts more than 65 percent of its U.S. sales via digital platforms, was the first to introduce a voice recognition app that conducted a retail transaction when it launched its virtual ordering assistant, DOM, in 2014. Domino’s said the platform paved the way for this one.

    "DOM was a key milestone not only for us, but for voice recognition technology in general," J. Patrick Doyle, CEO and president of Domino's, said in a statement. "DOM was also the public face of our initial investment in artificial intelligence. Voice is a more natural way for people to interact with technology and that's why we have been investing in AI for more than half a decade.”

    DOM is currently being tested on the phones in 20 stores across the U.S., with more restaurants expected to join in the coming months.

    “We believe natural voice recognition is the future, as seen by the rise in virtual assistants, such as Amazon's Alexa and Google Home,” Doyle added. “More importantly, artificial intelligence provides great learning platforms that will enable us to do more to deliver convenience for our customers and better job experiences for our team members. With DOM on the phones, our AnyWare ordering technology and plans we have for future in-store technology, our goal is to one day be 100 percent digital."

    That final note is an interesting one. Dennis Maloney, Domino’s chief digital officer, said the goal was to free up employees to focus on preparing ordering and serving customers already in the lobby. Yet with the heavy digital and delivery business (Domino’s delivers about 65 percent of overall orders) could the rise of AI in the company’s convenience model shift its labor model? It may take a while for that reality to hold as Domino’s irons out operational kinks. In time, however, Domino’s could cut back on the amount of people needed to operate a store. That would be good for the bottom line and for investors. It could also benefit customers if the technology proves more accurate than the traditional method, giving Domino’s an edge over its competition.

    DOM also has the ability to answer calls from customers who want to check the status of their orders, using the incoming phone numbers to identify the specific order.

    "Some calls to the stores are from customers who have already ordered," Maloney said in a statement. "Based on the phone number, this system will automatically determine if this is a new call or a follow-up. If it's a follow-up call, DOM will act as a version of Domino's Tracker and provide customers with the information they're looking for."

    The Tracker, also an industry first, was launched by Domino’s in 2008.

    Domino’s first tested DOM for phone-in carryout orders in a few of its company-owned stores. The company said the initial response from customers and team members was positive.

    "Store team members like DOM," Nicole Prokopczyk, Domino's manager of corporate operations in Virginia, said in a statement. "They are focusing on providing better service to in-store customers while our pizza makers are concentrating on what they do best—making great-tasting pizzas."

    Just last week, Domino’s unveiled its addition of 150,000 “Hotspots” nationwide. These designated areas—picked by the restaurants ahead of time and then chosen by the customer after ordering—allow customers to receive delivery orders without a traditional address. If you don’t have a residence, or simply don’t want to go home, Domino’s will still deliver your order—to a park, sports field, beach, or thousands of other unexpected sites. WiFi, despite the name, isn’t part of the equation.