by Michael Wolf
This week restaurant chain Checkers & Rally’s announced a deal with Presto, a maker of restaurant technology, in which the drive-thru focused chain will roll out Presto’s AI-powered voice assistant technology chain-wide by the end of the year.
The announcement comes after early trials showed a 98% order accuracy for the voice assistant technology. And now, according to Checkers President and CEO Frances Allen, the chain plans to roll out Presto’s voice technology to all 267 store-owned and operated locations by the end of 2022. She also indicated that many franchise locations are expressing interest in the technology.
“We had a vision two years ago that we wanted what I would call ‘Alexa at the drive-thru,’” said Allen.
And now, with Presto, they have it. According to Allen, about 80% of the chain’s total business comes through a drive-thru, so the company’s management felt transitioning to a high-accuracy automated drive-thru could significantly impact the business. “Anything we can do to improve operations,streamline for our guests and our employees, we wanted to do.”
You can hear the Presto voice assistant taking an order at a Checkers drive-thru in the video above. The Presto bot sounds, well, bot-like as it says “Welcome to Checkers, this drive-thru microphone is monitored and recorded for quality assurance.” In fact, the entire exchange sounds like something you might hear on an automated customer service line.
Expedite’s Kristen Hawley thought so too and asked during the press briefing if customers could access live humans at any point during the interaction.
“There are 2% of orders where the system says ‘you know, I don’t quite understand that,’” said Presto founder and CEO Rajat Suri. “If the person is insistent on talking to a staff member or operator, the system will escalate to the human in the restaurant.”
When asked if the broader rollout of Presto’s technology will result in a permanent reduction of headcount, Allen said no. Instead, she said, Presto’s technology helps fill roles left empty by the persistent shortage of workers the entire restaurant industry has been experiencing since the pandemic began.
“Our motivation is to fill the gap between the people that are available to us working in restaurants and where we need to focus that human labor,” said Allen. “In an ideal world, maybe we have five people at any shift right now. We probably have three or four available. And so this (Presto’s voice assistant) is like a fifth person that is coming in to help.”
“Our motivation here is not to replace people with robots.”