- TGI Fridays, the casual dining chain with 900 restaurants worldwide, is the first restaurant with an Alexa skill that integrates Amazon Pay, according to a press release. Users can also make reservations, order takeout from select restaurants, get menu suggestions and special deals by saying "Alexa, open Fridays" to an Alexa-enabled device.
- The integration will also be available in participating TGI Fridays restaurants. Alexa can recommend three side dishes for each entrée based on food pairings selected by the chain's chefs. TGI Fridays urges consumers to have fun by asking Alexa questions like, “Do you like ribs?” or “What day is it?”
- In other news, Amazon announced at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas that developers and businesses making skills for Amazon’s Alexa will soon be able to accept Amazon Pay for purchases directly within voice apps from the Alexa Skills Store.
The news points to how Amazon is leveraging Alexa's early lead in voice activated assistants to expand Amazon's role in payments. While Google Home and Siri also offer payments, Amazon could leverage the already-large customer base for Alexa — who typically already have payment information saved on the platform — to enable them to pay for purchases with other businesses.
TGI Fridays is among the casual dining chains that are struggling with shifting consumer tastes, especially among millennials who are increasingly shunning sit-down restaurants. To remain competitive, TGI Fridays appears to recognize the need to reach consumers through digital platforms such as mobile devices and voice-activated digital assistants. The Alexa skill is another way to connect with a digital audience. The chain's takeout sales have grown by 30% since launching online ordering in 2016, with 70% of those orders going to new customers, the company said.
The change in consumer tastes has also has been felt by competitors Applebee’s, Chili’s, Cheesecake Factory and Buffalo Wild Wings, among other major chains. Millennial consumers are more likely than older generations to cook at home, order delivery from restaurants or eat at fast-casual and quick-service restaurants, Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith told investors in a May letter. She also cited declining mall traffic and falling TV viewership of sporting events for dampening restaurant visits, as many restaurant models are based on frequent sports fans that reel in crowds of fans. For several years, millennials’ preferences has driven the growth of fast-casual chains like Chipotle, Panera Bread, Starbucks and Five Guys, which also are embracing mobile tech to remove friction for ordering and delivery.