Taco Bell has announced that they are in beta testing for TacoBot, their newest innovation for digital food ordering, less than two years after unveiling their Mobile Ordering and Payment App in October 2014. TacoBot is the first food ordering tool integrated with Slack communications app. It uses artificial intelligence to allow for group and single ordering through natural language.
What a time to be alive. Soon you will be able to order select Taco Bell menu items, with a great degree of customization and convenience, all without leaving the Slack messaging app on your phone.
Upon a quick installation, customers can use TacoBot to ask questions about the menu, place an order, and even see how it’s feeling or ask about its favorite singer. TacoBot will offer you tips, confirm your order and information, and sprinkle in a little wittiness and sharpness. Payment information and pickup location can be entered and saved via your ta.co account for utmost convenience.
Hearing this news made me stop and think for a second to contemplate whether Taco Bell is taking things too far with TacoBot. Is “fast food” not fast enough anymore in 2016? I don’t recall ever having to wait more than three minutes for my Taco Bell food after ordering at the cashier, nor have I ever received my order and thought, “that wasn’t fast enough.”
Lawrence Kim, Taco Bell’s Director of Digital Innovation and On Demand, describes TacoBot as “the latest step on our journey to make the brand more accessible wherever and whenever our fans want it. Taco Bell is about food tailor-made for social consumption with friends, and that’s why integrating with a social communications platform like Slack makes perfect sense.”
Given that Taco Bell already has a cohesive mobile ordering app and recently enhanced website compatible on both desktop and mobile, I couldn’t see how they could possibly make ordering a microwaved $1 taco any easier. Then again, maybe I’m old school. We live in an age where food companies have “On Demand” divisions and strive to make their products available “whenever and wherever” people want them.
However, from the point of view of Taco Bell as a brand, it makes sense that they are doing whatever they can to gain a technological advantage over other companies. But to me, this sets a sketchy precedent for what should be expected from food companies. What’s next? An auto-burrito-wrapper from Chipotle that will never provide a customer with a broken tortilla? Robot pizza delivery men from Domino’s?
If food companies want to make our lives more convenient, I’m all for it. When there’s not much quality there in the first place (in Taco Bell’s case, that’s a generous statement), then they don’t have much to lose by expediting the ordering process, so it makes sense for Taco Bell to push forward on this initiative and perfect the TacoBot.