By championing automation and investing in A.I. voice assistants for your drive-thru in 2023, you’ll be able to position your restaurant for success both now and in the future. Automating the drive-thru allows quick-service restaurants (QSRs) to generate new revenue, streamline order-taking, retain staff and get guests their food faster with better service.

Despite being around for over 70 years, drive-thru lanes of today look fairly similar to what people drove their Cadillacs through back in the sixties. In the meantime, we have gone through multiple technology revolutions—most recently with robots flipping burgers and making food deliveries. It’s time for the drive-thru to get a major overhaul and be prepared for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.

Drive-thrus have grown notoriously long as guest demand soars. Quick-service restaurants are fiercely competing in an arms race to offer guests the fastest and the best drive-thru experience. So how can restaurants make drive-thru ordering more accurate without slowing down throughput?

By utilizing next-generation artificial intelligence (A.I.) voice technology, restaurants can promote a stronger connection between their brand and guests. The A.I.-based speech recognition technology offers guests voice ordering at the drive-thru to accelerate transactions, enables smarter recommendations and personalization and improves order accuracy for happier guests.

What’s driving the need to innovate?

Before we look at the future of the drive-thru, we need to understand the current problems the drive-thru is facing. QSRs have long been plagued with inaccuracy at the window, nonoptimal throughput and an impersonalized experience. Accurately entering orders to send to the kitchen should be a low threshold for smooth operations, yet it can often be difficult for staff to decipher a customer’s request especially while the staff is multitasking, taking orders, collecting payment and pouring beverages. With enough frequency, human error has a significant impact on the bottom line:

  • Labor shortage
  • Longer wait times
  • Missed upsell opportunities
  • Order accuracy

How voice automation accelerates the drive-thru

For decades, drive-thru wait times, speed of service and order accuracy have been key performance metrics for fast-food chains, but the ongoing labor shortage and higher labor costs have not only heightened their importance, but highlighted the need for higher upsell rates for drive-thrus to remain profitable and successful. For the country’s almost 200,000 fast-food restaurants, there is no shortage of guests going through the drive-thru, but there is a shortage of workers staffing the drive-thru.

In today’s labor-scarce world, to survive and thrive, restaurants must adopt technology—fast.

1. Reduce wait time at the drive-thru order terminal

When diners pull-up to the drive-thru order terminal, they are often asked to wait, because the staff is multi-tasking, either finishing up the previous car’s order and entering it in the POS system, pouring beverages or collecting payment from a guest. With voice automation, drive-thru guests are greeted by the A.I. voice system and never told to wait, avoiding typical delays that frustrate guests. Orders are immediately sent to the point of sales system (POS), which immediately eliminates bottlenecks and keeps the drive-thru flowing smoother while making guests happier.

2. Increase new revenue opportunities

Suggestive upselling means recommending menu items or limited-time offers (LTOs) for drive-thru guests and helping guests make decisions that are good for them. With this unprecedented labor shortage, it’s inevitable that the short-staffed drive-thru team see upselling as the least of their priorities, as they’re trying to move as many guests through the drive-thru lane as quickly as possible, take their orders, enter them into the POS system, pack their orders, pour their drinks and collect payment.

3. Improve guest experience

The drive-thru order terminal is the first point of contact with guests and you want that to be the best experience, or else it goes downhill pretty quickly. With voice automation, the A.I. voice assistant is always pleasant no matter what time you pull up to the drive-thru and she always greets you before taking your order. To confirm the order, she reads back the order to ensure order accuracy. With the A.I. voice assistant at the drive-thru taking orders, it helps free up staff from multitasking so that they can focus on preparing the meals, ensuring orders are accurately packed and providing the best possible guest experience.

Automation technology doesn’t have to be impersonal, with custom voices, drive-thru ordering is transformed from a purely transactional experience to an exciting interaction that allows guests to converse with celebrities, mascots, characters or other custom voices.

Don’t make your guests wait

A.I. voice technology is poised to be widely adopted by the restaurant industry in 2023. The lingering labor shortage, rising costs and wages give operators more reasons to automate—not to eliminate jobs, but to strike a balance between a consistent experience for guests and a safe, comfortable and fair-wage atmosphere for workers.

With the drive-thru channel being the major source of revenue for the majority of QSRs, while it may seem like a good idea to buy a cheaper piece of equipment or solution, it’s important to do your homework beforehand to see if this will be the best investment for your restaurant. When operators cut corners on technology, you usually end up paying more long-term with replacements and costly upgrade services.

Choose a voice automation partner that has been proven at scale

Designed to help restaurants maximize labor efficiency and generate new revenue, Presto’s next-generation A.I. voice assistant helps optimize the drive-thru, retain staff, increase upsells and provide a superior guest experience. Presto Voice™ offers the industry’s most widely adopted A.I.-powered drive-thru voice assistant with over 75% market share.

As Checkers and Rally’s’ (800-unit burger chain) exclusive partner of automated voice ordering, Presto deployed and integrated its A.I. voice assistant into Checkers’ existing drive-thru infrastructure to hundreds of its corporate-owned drive-thru restaurants in 2022. At ICR’s 25th Anniversary Conference in Orlando, Florida, it was announced that Del Taco, the nation’s second largest Mexican quick service restaurant with approximately 600 locations nationwide, is the second major brand to sign up for Presto Voice.

Presto’s voice automation solution has the richest feature set, is easy to install at scale with existing point of sales (POS) and kitchen display systems (KDS), has 24/7 availability and delivers proven ROI. It allows fast-food restaurants to do more with less, doesn’t require any changes to the operator’s existing concept, improves customer retention, drives revenue growth and helps them build a significantly more productive workforce.

Don’t wait for the rest of the industry to pass you by. Contact Presto to discover how you can generate real results today.

About Presto

Presto overlays next-gen digital solutions onto the physical world. Our enterprise-grade touch, vision, and voice technologies help hospitality businesses thrive while delighting guests. With over 100 million guests using Presto each month and 300,000 systems shipped, we are one of the largest technology providers in the industry.

Founded at M.I.T. in 2008, Presto is headquartered in Silicon Valley, Calif. with customers including top 20 hospitality chains such as Applebee’s, Aramark, Chili’s Grill & Bar, Denny’s, and Outback Steakhouse.