DoorDash is developing an AI phone-answering system

The bot will be able to take orders and make suggestions. It's a whole new business for the delivery company.
DoorDash's AI phone system is geared toward large chains. | Photo courtesy of DoorDash

DoorDash is expanding into the business of AI voice with a bot that can help restaurants take orders over the phone.

The delivery company said it began developing the system after learning that 1 in 5 of its customers still prefer ordering takeout by calling the restaurant. But it also found that nearly half of those calls go unanswered because staff are busy.

The AI bot, which is still in development, is designed to solve that problem by fielding phone calls itself, allowing restaurants to capture orders that might otherwise be lost. It will also be able to make recommendations that could boost check sizes and allow customers to easily reorder past meals. And it eliminates missed calls and long wait times, DoorDash said.

Customers will be able to place pickup and delivery orders with the bot or ask to be connected directly to the restaurant. There are also human agents—either DoorDash staff or its vendor partners—who can intervene to help the customer if necessary. 

The white-label product is meant for large chains. They will pay DoorDash a fee for every call placed through the system, but the company declined to reveal how much, saying only that it is intended to be “cost-efficient.” It will integrate with DoorDash Drive, the company's white-label delivery service, which will allow customers to track the progress of their order. 

The AI bot builds upon an existing DoorDash phone system that uses human agents with an interactive voice component.

For DoorDash, the technology represents a leap from ordering and logistics software into the rapidly growing world of AI voice, which is showing up on phone lines and in drive-thrus and could eventually be used in mobile ordering and even in the back-of-house.

The industry’s labor crunch, combined with advances in artificial intelligence like ChatGPT, have led to increased interest in these tools from restaurants.

In May, DoorDash CEO Tony Xu said the company was experimenting with generative AI for both internal and customer-facing purposes. 

“I think it has a lot of promise for making the consumer experience, shopping experience, a lot easier as well by reducing friction,” he told analysts on an earnings call in May. “So I think you should expect a lot of fun things to come in the future, and we'll be a big part of that.”

DoorDash was also reportedly testing an AI chatbot in its app to help with ordering in some markets.

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