AI continues to advance at an incredible rate, with regular, meaningful improvements now considered typical. Generative AI voice technology, in particular, has already been positively impacting quick-service restaurant operators dealing with labor shortages and increased customer demand. It led me to wonder: Is the benefit of this technology just for restaurant owners, or do guests also appreciate AI taking center stage in the drive-thru? 

To help address this question, Presto’s team decided to solicit guests at one of the drive-thru locations where Presto Voice™ is operating, to determine what people thought about Voice AI order taking. After each guest placed their drive-thru order with a voice bot, they were asked several questions about the experience.

The Results

To be honest, I was a bit surprised with the results. In a world where we’ve only been regularly communicating with voice assistants for a few years (think: Alexa, Siri), I would have expected more survey respondents to object to an AI voice taking the order. Yet that was far from what happened. Nearly 90% of survey respondents said the voice bot was easy to understand, with about two-thirds saying the human/robot voice balance was “just right.” Over 50% of respondents thought the voice bot was just as good at taking an order as a human, and 20% thought it was even better than a human.

Additionally, 92% said they were either just as likely or more likely to visit a drive-thru with an automated ordering system.

Drive-thru voice AI systems are designed to improve the total performance of the restaurant. In addition to helping operators redeploy labor to accelerate speed of service and optimize operations, we found that one-third of survey respondents added an item to their order; the automated system never forgets to upsell. The survey results are consistent with what we see elsewhere within our client base. Some restaurants see up to 4x more upsell attempts with the automated system compared to human order-takers and up to a 6% increase in revenue.

Clarifying Misconceptions

While there have been some negative reports about Voice AI for restaurants, with some believing it would create a bottleneck at the drive-thru due to inaccurate order-taking, we found that wasn’t the case. Working in conjunction with our partners, we’ve collected data from over 350 restaurants nationally that indicate non-intervention rates up to 95%, which means for every 20 orders, 18 to 19 of them are completely handled by the system, freeing restaurant staff to focus on the accurate preparation of orders. This was independently confirmed in a recent WSJ report testing Presto Voice at Hardee’s, where staff had to intervene in just 3 out of 30 orders the reporter placed. 

Fast food drive-thrus tend to be on busy roads to capture as many passersby as possible, which leads to spikes in noise. The report also noted that Presto Voice passed multiple background noise challenges during the order-taking process.

As for the future of voice bots taking orders in the drive-thru, guests clearly indicated their satisfaction with the automated system. 73% of respondents recommended that all drive-thrus have an automated system for order taking. That’s good news for restaurant owners, technology providers like Presto, and guests alike.

Now we have another data point suggesting guests are ready for drive-thru AI and benefit from the same features that quickly make this technology a mainstay in the quick-service restaurant industry.

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