Chatbots are carving out a niche in restaurant HR departments.
A number of tech suppliers focused on hiring, training and retention said at the National Restaurant Association Show this week that they’re using ChatGPT and other forms of conversational AI to help restaurants communicate with staff, both by screening job applicants and keeping them engaged once they’re hired.
The bots, they say, can speed up time-consuming processes and even gauge how employees are feeling better than their human managers.
Workstream, a company that helps restaurants hire hourly workers, used ChatGPT to develop its own bot for job seekers.
Prospective employees can start an application with the bot, called MIA, by scanning a QR code provided by the restaurant. They’ll get a text from the bot, which will ask about their previous work experience and then suggest open positions based on their background.
MIA is an extension of Workstream’s whole strategy, which is to help restaurants connect with job applicants quickly—before they can accept a job somewhere else.
“The job that you’re gonna take is the first person to get back to you with a positive response,” said Workstream Senior Account Executive Aidan Vaandering. “Speed is everything.”
MIA gets the process started almost instantly, asking applicants about their previous work experience, what languages they speak and when they can start. The whole thing takes about five minutes and can be done entirely via text message.
Read more: The case for ChatGPT in restaurants.
There are ethical considerations to keep in mind when using AI in the hiring process, said Jenn Ravalli, CMO of hiring and retention platform Harri. Companies have to ensure that the technology can assess candidates without discrimination. On the other hand, she said, conversational AI can actually help bring in more diverse applicants because it lacks some of the unconscious biases that humans have.
Harri itself uses a chatbot to help screen applicants. But it's working on taking conversational AI a step further to the retention stage.
This will involve using a bot to check in on how employees are doing, particularly as it relates to scheduling, Ravalli said. For instance, the bot might start a chat within the Harri app if an employee has been absent or is switching their shift.
“People will share more with technology and with a bot than they would with a person,” Ravalli said. This can help operators set expectations and even predict turnover.
The new platform, called Harri Engage, is launching in September.
Others are using ChatGPT to help operators communicate and engage with staff in other ways. ExpandShare, an app that supports restaurant training and operations, has integrated the bot into its Facebook-like newsfeed tool for restaurants. GMs can use it to help craft staffwide announcements about new menu items or other news, for instance.
“It kind of gets you over that writer’s block,” said Ty Shehadi, SVP of sales and partnerships.
The AI could also be used to generate opening and closing checklists or even create quizzes for ongoing training purposes. Shehadi said the technology is useful for creating a framework that restaurants can then tailor to their specific operations.
“AI is like 80/20,” he said. “You need to refine it and make it your own.”
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