Tech Tracker: Automation is becoming a must-have for restaurant marketing

BentoBox launches new marketing platform that includes automated email and SMS to customers, ARO launches an AI-powered marketing platform, and more

15 February 2024

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As we enter the golden age of AI and automation, where can restaurant operators put these nascent tools to good use? Whether it’s a quick-service restaurant “hiring” AI to take orders in the drive-thru lane, or an operator using artificial intelligence to build an employee training program, machine learning and AI are beginning to fill the gaps left by dwindling restaurant staffs trying to meet the high demands of the digital ordering age.

One of the biggest opportunities for automation in the industry is marketing. Several digital marketing platforms and other tech vendors are working with AI and adding automated SMS and email features left and right in an attempt to take one less task off a busy operator’s plate, like BentoBox, which just launched an all-in-one restaurant commerce and marketing platform that, among other things, automates marketing messages to customers. But they’re not the only ones: ARO is an AI marketing platform that just launched in Miami using generative AI to create targeted promotions, and SevenRooms just acquired AI SMS marketing platform HeyPluto.

As automated marketing becomes more of a force in the industry, how could this impact restaurant operations? In other news this month, Google has scaled back its restaurant ordering feature, Yelp has added new AI features, and more.

Tech Tracker rounds up what’s happening in the technology sector of the restaurant industry, including news from restaurants, vendors, digital platforms, and third-party delivery companies. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know and why:

Marketing automation and AI is getting huge

This month, BentoBox restaurant marketing and commerce platform just announced a new commerce engine that brings together and adds onto the technology vendor’s abilities, by adding features like diner data management, menu management, loyalty, and a marketing center that includes capabilities to automatically send SMS and email marketing messages to customers.

While BentoBox CEO and founder Krystle Mobayeni said that while it’s not a completely AI-driven product, there are AI capabilities and touches that can make restaurants’ jobs easier, like producing marketing content. She said, for example, the automated email campaign capabilities could remind customers to buy a gift card to celebrate their moms ahead of Mother’s Day.

“Operators are not copywriters, and they don’t have all full-time marketing people on staff,” Mobayeni said. “These automated SMS and email campaigns allow restaurants to keep in touch with their guests outside of the dining room, and doing that in an automated way, based on different audiences or different triggers or different behaviors, lets restaurants just set it and forget it.”

The “set it and forget it” approach to marketing is backed by multiple types of technology, including machine learning, generative AI, and algorithms. These tools come together to power the new AI marketing platform, ARO, which just made its debut in Miami at the end of January. This company claims to add an additional layer of personalization to automated and AI-driven marketing campaigns, as more and more customers demand customized experiences in the post-COVID era.

“Our goal was to develop a platform that could help restaurants better understand their target demographics and tailor their marketing efforts to more effectively engage with those audiences resulting in more traffic and higher conversions,” Sebastian Brunet, CTO and cofounder of Aro said in a statement. “The technology behind this platform leverages generative AI to recommend content to restaurants based on user engagement. In short, we aim to answer the simple question: ‘How should you structure and create your promotional content to yield the highest conversions?’”

These companies are not the only ones putting AI and automation-driven marketing front and center in their toolboxes. Restaurant management platform DashTrack announced the positive results of its pilot test of an AI-driven content marketing platform, which can build content for a restaurant’s website, and SMS and email marketing campaigns. SevenRooms also just expanded its suite of capabilities with the acquisition last month of AI SMS marketing platform, HeyPluto. This company is the first acquisition for SevenRooms, and will allow the company to not only offer personalized texting campaigns, but also manage VIP guests with a product called Private Line.

Yelp adds new AI-powered features for business owners

Yelp just announced a series of new features for both businesses and consumers, including AI-created business summaries of restaurants, that offer details from menus and reviews. The company is also now offering data-driven insights for businesses, to help them select the right Yelp advertising budget for them.  

“Our latest product enhancements provide even more valuable insights to businesses on Yelp, equipping business owners with comprehensive competitive performance data and smarter ad budget recommendations, helping them make strategic, informed decisions to reach relevant consumers and grow their business,” Yelp said in a blog post about the new features.

Google scales back ordering feature

Although ordering from restaurants via Google’s built-in restaurant profiles on its Search and Maps features has become a digital age mainstay since it launched in 2018, by the end of June, the feature will be phased out. Instead, Order with Google will redirect Google searchers to a restaurant website or third-party delivery site, as first reported by NRN sister publication, Restaurant Business.

“Over time, we’ve found that people generally prefer to complete their food orders on partner and merchant websites,” a Google spokesperson said. “So, we’re now transitioning Order with Google to focus on linking directly to partners, allowing people to complete their transactions with the partner and merchant of their choice.”

Although the ordering feature will be gone by June 30, the changes appear to be rolling out gradually over time. When NRN tried to place a local order for delivery or takeout via Google, although the menu was still listed via the Google platform, we were instead directed to place an order via DoorDash, Grubhub or Postmates., Starship Technologies announce fundraising rounds

Online ordering and digital marketing platform startup company,, announced in January a $33 million series B fundraiser to expand its team of engineers and product developers, and to improve its digital tools. 

Autonomous delivery service Starship Technologies announced a fundraising round of $90 million, co-led by Plural and Iconical, and bringing the total raised money for the decade-old startup to $230 million. The company operates currently across six markets in the US and UK, and will use this fundraising round to expand more globally.

Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

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