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Slackobot: Taco Bell pilots an order bot on Slack


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

April 7, 2016 | 4 min read

Words by John McCarthy and Doug Zanger

The Mexican food chain has teamed with workplace messaging service Slack to refine a bot capable of processing and arranging food pickups. TacoBot leverages artificial intelligence for group and single ordering through natural language – fully equipped with Taco Bell’s sharp and witty personality.

The TacoBot remains in beta and is limited to a few companies including SAV Studios, Thought Catalog, Giphy, Fullscreen and FoodBeast at the moment, although more can join the waiting list if easy order tacos are high up the list of priorities. Deutsch LA partnered on the effort and, according to Martin Legowiecki, SVP, Creative Technology Director at the agency, the project started from the heart.

"TacoBot was born out of our love for Slack and the experience gained from building It has Artificial Intelligence brains so you can talk to it to order tacos, or just have a conversation, like you would with any of your friends on Slack,” said Legowiecki. “It has a personality of that someone you know who breaks the monotony of the day-to-day with a well-timed #fail gif. Or maybe, an article from IFUCKINGLOVESCIENCE about the mating habits of sloths. What they lack in professionalism, they make up for in good vibes."

Once installed into a company's Slack channel users can talk the bot through their orders as the below gif shows.

James Shani, founder and chief executive of SAV Studios in Los Angeles, was approached early in the bot’s life.

“We're friendly with Taco Bell and Deutsch. They asked us to be a beta user and provide candid feedback on our experience with TacoBot,” said Shani. “We really respect how Taco Bell and Deutsch have been leaders in digital — taking calculated risks on new platforms and executing in an authentic way — so we were glad to. The way they approached us speaks volumes to why they've been so successful as a brand.”

The initial feedback from SAV Studios has been positive.

“Our team loves it. Just last week, we were working late on a pitch and someone from our team had the idea of using TacoBot to order food for everyone,” noted Shani. “There’s a cool factor and novelty to it. And again, it's very genuine to their brand in how it operates/works.

Lawrence Kim, Taco Bell director of digital innovation and on demand, said: "The TacoBot Slack integration is 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.”

Is this the future of food ordering? Shani believes that it is, with one small caveat (and suggestion).

“It’s certainly the future of food ordering for businesses and a far better experience than catering or takeout when you want something quick,” said Shani. It doesn't make sense for every restaurant. It'll be interesting to see how it translates beyond Slack (iMessage, maybe?) and to the broader audience.”

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