When drive-thru operators don’t seize opportunities to upsell, they leave money on the table—lots and lots of money. In a recent report, Bernstein analysts told investors that the restaurant industry’s lack of automated suggestive selling costs the industry $2B each year. Executing the ‘Perfect Upsell’—which optimizes revenue, speed of service, and customer satisfaction—is one of Presto’s greatest obsessions because it is a major driver of ROI for restaurants that adopt AI for their drive-thrus. The Perfect Upsell is magical.

Optimizing the upsell—that is, offering the right item to the right customer at the right time—is an art when it’s done by a human. When it’s powered by AI, it becomes a science. Think of it like a video game controller: you have a finite set of buttons, but executing the perfect combination of button-pressing to emit the perfect laser at the right time is non-trivial to say the least.

When perfected, the upsell can result in larger check sizes and increased profit margin for the restaurant while also enhancing and personalizing the dining experience for guests. Unfortunately, drive-thru operators often don’t upsell at all, or they don’t upsell well. Both options lead to a poor outcome: in the first instance, a missed opportunity for revenue generation; in the second, suboptimal revenue and a dissatisfied customer.

Over more than a decade spent working with restaurant operators, we’ve learned that perfecting the upsell—whether at the table or in the drive-thru—is indeed a science. With the right combination of inputs and analysis, suggestive selling is a powerful tool that benefits both brands and customers. Generative AI tools like Presto Voice™ can leverage these inputs to deliver the perfect upsell to every customer, every time.

The Current Upsell Experience

Today, most drive-thrus rely on staff to upsell guests. As Presto has witnessed time and again, this approach results in minimal suggestive selling while driving inconsistency in the guest experience. Many stores train their employees with basic upsell rules that are ignored soon thereafter. Rarely do upsell rules take advantage of valuable, targeted data to truly elevate the guest experience. When they do, staff tend not to follow them. It’s a lose/lose for the restaurant operator and the guest.

  • Relying on overworked and undertrained staff means an operator depends on employees who may become bored, distracted, or uncomfortable during their interactions with customers. Staff are rarely incentivized to upsell. As a result, humans often simply do not upsell.
  • Staff members who do upsell consistently still leave money on the table. Customers may find upsell attempts aggressive or inapplicable to their particular orders. Conversely, employees who are trained with basic upsell rules apply them generically to every customer, which results in a poor guest experience. In short, when humans upsell, they do so in a highly suboptimal manner.

The Perfect Upsell

Thankfully, technological advancements promise a better way to upsell: one that doesn’t rely on employees and delivers a more personalized experience for customers.

What is ‘The Perfect Upsell?’

  1. The ability to tailor offerings to the current customer’s order, and external variables such as the ambient weather or time of day in real time
  2. A personalized understanding of customer preferences based on order history
  3. A commitment to monitoring and measuring performance
  4. Seamless execution, which neither delays the customer nor holds up the rest of the line, meaning suggestive selling AI must adapt on-the-fly to speed of service delays or daypart

Most drive-thrus are not equipped to deliver on any of these four factors. That’s because 99 out of 100 drive-thru operators still rely on manual suggestive selling. Instead, operators should consider leveraging generative AI solutions like Presto Voice. The goal, of course, is to ensure consistent, high-quality upselling that delights without annoying guests.

Presto Voice never forgets to upsell, never gets tired of upselling, and never chooses not to upsell. In March 2023, the AI had an 81% offer rate and 40% acceptance rate across all stores in which it was deployed. This represents a 5-6% increase in revenue, or an extra $3,750-$4,500 in revenue per month for a drive-thru generating $75,000 in monthly receipts. Unlike human order-takers, AI is always friendly, professional, and efficient. When suggestive selling succeeds, the benefits are mutual: guests drive away with a better experience and restaurant operators reap the reward of a larger check.

The Future of the Automated Upsell

Presto Voice already quadruples upsell attempts at customer restaurants and results in 30% larger check sizes, on average, but its future potential as we drive toward The Perfect Upsell is even greater. We’re excited about the opportunity to continue improving suggestive selling as we deliver advances in several key areas.


Over time, as Presto’s generative AI technology gets smarter, we’ll be able to offer hyper-personalized upsells that improve the guest experience and enhance brand loyalty. The future holds real-time recommendations based on constantly refreshed customer profiles, with unique promotions geared toward individual preferences, past orders, and dietary constraints.

Integrations for Speed and Ease

Integrations with other tools—like digital menu boards, loyalty programs, and local third-party data– will lead to improved offerings and better, faster service. These integrations could result in customized coupons for loyal customers, improved seasonal offerings based on real-time local weather and events, and faster payments with pre-loaded cards.

Advanced Data Analytics

The more data AI ingests, the smarter it gets. Over time, Presto Voice will naturally yield better, smarter, more conversational results while also offering more advanced data analytics. Restaurant guests will be able to take advantage of predictive modeling, segmentation, recommendation algorithms, and dynamic A/B testing and optimization to further refine not just the science of suggestive selling, but the science of the entire drive-thru experience.

Start Upselling Better

At Presto, we have years of experience identifying the right buttons to push to get the best outcome from suggestive selling. Our customers have already seen improvements in both the art and the science of the upsell—and we’re only getting started. If you’re ready to start driving your drive-thru check sizes up while delivering an outsized guest experience, don’t wait. Reach out today to learn more about how Presto can make the relationship between you and your guests what it ought to be: magic.

To schedule a live demo or learn more about Presto’s products, please contact mktg@presto.com.