Conversational AIs Now Take Your Drive-Through Orders


Did you ever experience using a restaurant’s drive-through and ended up with the wrong products or missing items? Many people know the feeling, which often lowers the overall customer service experience, especially if a place becomes known for getting orders wrong “all the time.” There is an attractive solution for such and related problems provided by the conversational AI from Hi Auto, powered by cloud technology from Intel Xeon and the Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing), which is a mini PC.

The Hi Auto conversational AI can be hooked up to the drive-through PoS (point of sale) and facilitate the orders of customers who order from outside the building in the comfort of their vehicles. Traditionally, this would be a  two-way voice call from the client terminal connected to the staff inside. They communicate with an accuracy that is highly dependant on audio quality and comprehension of what is being said. Since the overall usage of drive-through terminals increased by 22% due to the pandemic, this channel is not to be underestimated.

Unlocking upsell and experience boosts with AI PoS from Hi Auto

The features of the Hi Auto solution consist of greeting the customers, answering questions, taking the order, and trying to upsell with special discounts or daily specials along the lines of “would you like some fries with that?”. So, it’s basically a voice assistant that people are already familiar with, thanks to Alexa and Siri for making your orders. The advantage of utilizing such a solution over letting staff handle orders is that personnel can focus on other things in the workflow and speed up the processing without losing any accuracy in the ordering process.

Some people might feel more comfortable asking a bot a question because they feel like they don’t want to bug an employee with something they want to check. If the AI doesn’t know anything, the system will automatically connect to a member of the restaurant’s team to provide the correct answers and to prevent a negative experience with this novel touchpoint.

At Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken restaurants
At Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken restaurants in Ohio, drive-through guests place orders using a high-tech assistant powered by Intel’s artificial intelligence technology. (Image: Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken)

On the other side, the restaurant staff is also able to talk to the Hi Auto system and let the AI know about the current status of a particular item. They could, for instance, tell the assistant that they are out of fresh fries for ten minutes once, rather than telling every person that arrives, and Hi Auto would be able to inform any customers who are asking to get fries as part of their order. Once the menu items are back available, the staff could just talk into their headset and inform the system that everything is back to normal now, and any new customers would no longer be informed about the problem.

Also interesting: 6 Tips How Tech Can Help Managing a Multi-Location Restaurant

In a nutshell, restaurants that embrace such solutions for an AI-supported PoS terminal with speech recognition, like the one from Hi Auto, can improve the customer experience by getting orders right and processing orders faster while reducing the stress and workload of the “human employees” inside the building, who can focus on preparing the food. The next step of such an AI could potentially be offering services in languages other than English. This way, the restaurant could improve inclusion and potentially gain new customers that might be tourists or people who live nearby but simply don’t speak the language well enough to make an order and are simply too shy to try with a real person.

Thoughts from the people involved in trying Hi Auto

Chuck Doran, owner and operator of Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken Restaurant in Englewood, Ohio, US, states, “The automated AI drive-thru has impacted my business in a simple way. We don’t have customers waiting anymore. We greet them as soon as they get to the board and the order is taken correctly. It’s amazing to see the level of accuracy with the voice recognition technology, which helps speed up service. It can even suggest additional items based on the order, which helps us increase our sales. If a person is running the drive-thru, they may suggest a sale in one out of 20 orders. With Hi Auto, it happens in every transaction where it’s feasible. So, we see improvements in our average check, service time, and improvements in consistency and customer service. And because the cashier is now less stressed, she can focus on customer service as well. A less-burdened employee will be a happier employee, and we want happy employees interacting with our customers.”

Employees from Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken restaurants
Employees from Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken restaurants in Ohio receive drive-through orders via an artificial intelligence assistant that contacts them through their headsets. (Image: Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken)

Roy Baharav, chief executive officer and co-founder of Hi Auto, adds, “At Lee’s, we met a team that puts its heart and soul into serving its customers,” … “We operationalized our AI system based on what we learned from the owners, general managers and employees. They have embraced the solution and, within a short time, began reaping the benefits. We are now applying the process and lessons learned at additional customer sites.”

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Over at Intel, Joe Jensen, vice president of the Internet of Things Group and general manager of Retail, Banking, Hospitality, and Education, summarizes, “We’re increasingly seeing restaurants interested in leveraging AI to deliver actionable data and personalize customer experiences,” … “With Hi Auto’s solution powered by Intel technology, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) can help their employees be more productive while increasing customer satisfaction and, ultimately, their bottom line.”

YouTube: Conversational AIs Now Take Your Drive-Through Orders

Photo credit: All media shown is owned by Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, and was made available through a press release by Intel.
Source: Intel press release / NPD restaurant industry report

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Christopher Isak
Christopher Isak
Hi there and thanks for reading my article! I'm Chris the founder of TechAcute. I write about technology news and share experiences from my life in the enterprise world. Drop by on Twitter and say 'hi' sometime. ;)
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