As reported on Nation’s Restaurant News:
TGI Fridays on Wednesday announced it was expanding its partnership with Amazon, adding Alexa voice ordering and Amazon Pay to its Internet-based offerings.
“We were one of the first brands to be on the Amazon Marketplace, which is basically their online mall,” said Sherif Mityas, TGI Fridays chief information officer, in an interview ahead of the announcement.
“We are now continuing our partnership by being not only one of the first brands with an Alexa skill to be on Echo and Dot devices, but we are on their Amazon Pay platform as well.”
The new Amazon offerings were announced Wednesday at Amazon Web Services “re:Invent 2017” conference in Las Vegas, Nev.
Mityas said the Alexa voice ordering and Amazon payment options differentiate the casual-dining brand from competitors and also help the brand reach new audiences.
Mityas said anyone with an Amazon account and Amazon Prime members can order food without pulling out a credit card. “They will be able to use their Amazon account, going directly through that,” he said. Consumers can make orders and reservations now through the Amazon Alexa skill at U.S. restaurants, and some participating locations will offer Amazon Pay. The pay capabilities will be phased in throughout 2018.
Alcohol delivery will come at a later date. “Right now, we’re just doing our core menu and some non-alcoholic beverages,” Mityas said.
Since introducing online sales a year ago, off-premise sales have doubled Mityas said. “It has been incremental, and it’s gaining younger guests,” he said. In addition, about 70 percent of online orders come from new customers.
“We are reaching a brand new guest,” Mityas said, “and this is in a way that’s convenient and friction-less for them. This another step in that journey.”
The new Alexa skill/Amazon Pay integration will allow guests to place and pay for online orders.
Mityas said anyone with an Amazon account and Amazon Prime members can order food without pulling out a credit card. “They will be able to use their Amazon account, going directly through that,” he said.
Alcohol deliver will come at a later date. “Right now, we’re just doing our core menu and some non-alcoholic beverages,” Mityas said.
“We believe this really differentiates us in the casual-dining space by being able to reach customers in a whole new way,” he said.
TGI Fridays introduced online ordering a year ago, and now 70 percent of online orders are from new customers, he said. “We are reaching a brand new guest,” Mityas said, “and this is in a way that’s convenient and friction-less for them. This another step in that journey.”
The new battleground for restaurants and retail is not on street corners but on someone’s phone, Mityas said. “This gives us access to the tens of millions of folks who interact with Amazon,” he added.
Customers can add the TGI Fridays skill to the Alexa app, which is connected to Amazon accounts, and they can use the service along with billing.
Mityas said experts expect that within the next five years as much as 50 percent of online commerce will be voice activated.
TGI Fridays said it had to create recommended options for menu items, such as the top three.
“What this will allow us to do is build artificial intelligence into the system so subsequent orders can be tailored to the individual,” Mityas said, citing examples such as preferences for style of French fries. “That will be as early as the first or second quarter of next year.”
TGI Fridays will continue to allow orders through its smartphone app, website, one-click ordering on Facebook, chat-bots on Twitter and pay at table through their phones in the store, he said.
“This is a focus on digital and technology to differentiate the brand,” Mityas said.
The majority of TGI Fridays guests still pick up their orders, he said, and the order turnaround in the restaurant is usually 20 to 25 minutes. In areas where delivery is available, delivery timetables are dependent on the third-party partners.
TGI Fridays has 460 restaurants in the United States.
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