Drive-Thru Automation News & AI Influence
From NRN and Next Frontier August 2021 — The next part of the post-pandemic restaurant makeover? Robots
- Redesigns stress ease of customer experience like Panera’s geofencing technology and Taco Bell’s smartphone-operated food pickup.
- both KFC and Dunkin’ piloting checkout-free automated drive-thrus powered by AI in 2019.
- Valyant is partnering with Checkers and Rally’s
- 16–20% higher accuracy rates than Google or Amazon’s voice assistants
- main draw of artificial intelligence in the drive-thru is solution for labor challenges
- White Castle began testing AI-powered drive-thru with license-plate recognition in partnership with Mastercard last fall.
The next part of the post-pandemic restaurant makeover? Robots. While AI and automation are certainly nothing new to the industry (Flippy the fry cook robot debuted four years ago and Domino’s has been testing out AI capabilities for a long time), these technologies are making the leap from gimmick to gold standard as off-premises demands grow and the industry’s labor challenges continue.
AI comes to the drive-thru lane
With the restaurant industry labor crisis ongoing, operators are finding new ways to survive the employee slowdown, including investing in artificial intelligence. Testing of AI-powered drive-thru lanes began before the pandemic, with both KFC and Dunkin’ piloting checkout-free automated drive-thrus powered by AI in 2019.
The interest in human-free drive-thru lanes grew in earnest over the past year with McDonald’s announcing a test of automated voice order-taking at drive-thrus in June, though McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said that there is a “big leap” in going from a test of 10 restaurants to 14,000 and that it will take more than a year for AI to become more widespread.
Rob Carpenter, founder and CEO of Denver-based Valyant AI — a technology company creating artificial intelligence solutions for drive-thru, takeout and delivery — also believes the technology is still finding its stride, but that it is improving all the time.
Valyant is partnering with Checkers and Rally’s — which will begin using its voice assistant— and there are two additional major quick-service brand partnerships in the works. Although the company’s voice assistant program for drive-thrus is still learning accents and other variables, Carpenter said tests are seeing 16–20% higher accuracy rates than Google or Amazon’s voice assistants.