Casey’s has brought its popular pizza program into the digital age over the past several years, having prominently positioned its made-from scratch pies in its online ordering and rewards program.
But Casey’s still gets roughly 10 million call-in orders per year from customers — and some of those calls don’t get answered because an associate might be busy making pizza or performing another task, CEO Darren Rebelez said during a keynote session at the Groceryshop convention in Las Vegas last week.
To prevent call leakage and further boost efficiency, Rebelez said the chain is developing an automated phone ordering system.
“We're in the process of doing some voice AI, and we're teaching the system now with natural language processing to be able to take orders so we don't miss any of those calls. Because the worst thing that happens is a call doesn't get answered,” he said.
Rebelez didn’t say when the ordering system might roll out or how widely available it will be initially.
Automated voice assistants have become widespread across industries, and restaurants can incorporate them to free up workers, boost call volume and efficiently upsell customers, James Hom, co-founder and chief product officer at voice technology company SoundHound wrote in a recent op-ed for Modern Restaurant Management.
Last month, restaurant chain Panera announced it implemented AI ordering technology in the drive-thru lanes at two locations in New York with a goal of improving efficiency and order speed.
Casey’s sells fresh-made pizza at all of its more than 2,400 locations, making it the fifth largest pizza chain in the U.S, Rebelez said. It has offered online ordering since 2016 and has pickup available at all of its locations in addition to home delivery, which is primarily performed by third-party apps like DoorDash and Uber Eats. Casey’s Rewards members can get a free pizza for every 10 they order.
In addition to automating phone-in pizza orders, Casey’s is also examining ways it can boost sales of grocery items that go with its prepared food orders.
“We have about 600 of our grocery items in the assortment online right now where you can add those products. But, for example, with our whole pizza pie business, only about 20% of those orders include a beverage,” said Rebelez.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled James Hom’s last name.