Will Artificial Intelligence Be Taking Your Next Drive-Thru Order?

Food & Drink

Many people have experienced ordering fast food in a drive-thru and opening the bag later to find their French fries are missing, or their burgers are covered in ketchup they did not want. Artificial intelligence (AI) may make ordering food through a talking box easier, faster and more accurate.

You may not have to wait long for AI to take your next drive-thru order. Checkers & Rally’s are joining McDonald’s

on the list of fast food restaurants that are testing voice-ordering bots in their drive-thrus. Through a partnership with Presto, the company plans to install the AI-based voice assistant in 267 restaurants. For now, only the corporate-owned restaurants will get the new technology.

The Bot Will Take Your Order Now

Presto’s AI voice assistant automates speech recognition in restaurants and can be used in drive-thrus, kiosks, pay-at-table systems and other places. Presto shares that it has an accuracy of over 95% and improves labor productivity by as much as three times. The conversational AI technology can greet customers, take orders, transfer orders to point of sale (POS) systems and do other functions.

In a pilot program last year, Checkers & Rally’s found that the AI voice assistant had 98% accuracy in taking drive-thru orders and did not need restaurant employees to intervene. The system was even able to handle different customer accents.

Checkers & Rally’s are not the first company to test or use AI-powered drive-thrus. McDonald’s used Dynamic Yield to personalize the drive-thru experience through machine learning and AI. Last year, McDonald’s successfully tested voice-ordering technology in Chicago.  

Bot vs. Human or a New Collaboration?

Several forces are driving the growth of AI-powered voice assistants in drive-thrus. The first is the Covid-19 pandemic, which has encouraged more customers to use drive-thrus instead of going inside of restaurants because of fears about exposure to the virus. Customers feel more comfortable ordering through a talking box than a breathing human who may be sick.

Although drive-thrus now add up to 41% of all off-premise orders in restaurants, they are slower and less accurate than in previous years. Part of this is caused by the larger number of people who are using them, and part of this is because of the labor shortage, which is another driving force.

A survey from the National Restaurant Association found 78% of restaurant operators did not have enough employees, and 61% of fast-food restaurants closed their dining rooms because they did not have enough staff.

As wait times, mistakes and labor shortages climb, restaurants are turning to AI to fix the problems. However, there is concern about replacing human workers with bots, even if it is only in the drive-thru. Some restaurants are starting to view AI as a necessity and an opportunity for workers and machines to collaborate instead of replacing each other. There are not enough workers to handle all the current tasks, and AI offers a solution.

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