No restaurant in 2022 can subsist entirely on word of mouth, not even a pizzeria with the best ranch dressing known to mankind. Jet’s Pizza, which serves up a basic but delicious menu of Detroit-style pies, understands that advanced technology is the basket into which it must place its eggs if it wants to thrive—and according to QSR Magazine, the restaurant chain has found a way to use artificial intelligence to gain $100 million in revenue. No, this AI tech is nothing fancy like kitchen robots or delivery drones. It’s something much simpler: allowing customers to order pizza via text message.
QSR explains that Jet’s began toying with AI in 2019 and first rolled out text message ordering in early 2020. It’s a system built in partnership with a company called OrdrAi, and its strength lies in its ability to filter out extraneous information in someone’s text to determine their order. Aaron Nilsson, chief information officer for Jet’s, provides QSR a simple but powerful example: If you say you want a Coke and the restaurant only carries Pepsi products, the AI will add a Pepsi to your order.
Once you fire off the text, the order is instantly tabulated and you receive a text in the form of an order confirmation. If you’re ordering for a group, you don’t need to know how many pizzas and sodas would feed a crowd; instead, you just specify that the order is for a party of, say, 12 people, and the AI suggests the accurate amount of food (presumably based on the average person’s pizza consumption, so I dunno, maybe throw in an extra pie to be safe).
“I am ordering more frequently because of the simplicity of it,” Nilsson says of Jet’s text-to-order functionality. “I think a lot of the websites that [use] radio buttons and check boxes and photos are just basically an analog of like Sears and Roebuck catalogs from like the 1950s.”
Jet’s seems pretty pleased by the results of its foray into AI. “In 2021, text to order generated $31.36 million in sales,” QSR notes. “On average, units with this technology saw a 24 percent increase in sales last year. In January, Jet’s Pizza announced that more than 2 million text orders had been placed. The innovation is now in 85 percent of the roughly 400-unit footprint.”
But simplifying the text-to-order system doesn’t just make it ostensibly quicker to place one’s pizza order. The real money lies in the fact that a robot never forgets the customer.
When you place a text order for a Jet’s Pizza, OrdrAi stores all the data associated with that order—who ordered the pizza, what the order contained, what time it was ordered, where it was delivered, etc. The text system will prompt the customer to place the same order sometime in the future, perhaps the very next week, at a time optimized to align with a customer’s schedule (or at least as far as AI can determine). When prompted by text, all you have to do is respond “yes” to place the same order again. Frictionless, prodding, and profitable.
“Now we just remember what you want and say, ‘Do you want to do it again?’” Nilsson explains, adding that “we get a good overall take rate on that.”
It’s not that Jet’s is alone in using this tech—it’s just that the profits it has generated with this approach are so stark that we can expect other restaurants to follow suit. Whereas before you had to download an app to interface with these restaurants, now they can come calling, literally, just to see if you happen to be craving any pizza.