- Drive-thru lanes generate anywhere from 60% to 70% of sales for fast-food chains.
- Chains are investing in automation to increase sales and relieve labor pressures at the drive-thru.
- Checkers & Rally’s is deploying voice ordering bots by tablet maker Presto at 267 restaurants.
Outside McDonald’s, the next burger chain betting big on drive-thru innovation is Checkers & Rally’s.
The restaurant company, known for its double drive-thru lanes, announced plans Monday to launch voice ordering bots at 267 corporate stores in partnership with Presto. Checkers is now the first national restaurant concept to scale the use of AI-powered voice assistants at the drive-thru, which will be rolled out throughout 2022.
The move comes as the industry faces a massive labor shortage. In November, 920,000 employees quit working at restaurants and hotels, surpassing August’s high of of 867,000 in the second half of 2021, according to Labor Department data.
Checkers said using automated voice bots to take orders at the drive-thru will allow restaurants to redeploy existing workers to “more people-dependent” tasks that enhance the guest experience.
“I think there is an incorrect narrative circulating that technology will contribute to job loss or serves as a complete ‘fix’ for the current labor challenges everyone in the restaurant industry is experiencing right now. The case is quite the opposite for us. Because we are able to implement technology, we are growing and hiring at a rapid speed,” CEO Frances Allen told Insider. “Our use of technology is aimed at streamlining work for our team members. It is about making their jobs more doable and enjoyable.”
Restaurant software provider Presto is known in the industry for introducing pay-at-the-table tablets in 2011. One of its biggest customers is Applebee’s. In November, it announced plans to go public through a
Presto added voice ordering to its suite of front-of-the-house management tools last year “to capture a significant share of the $205 billion restaurant labor productivity market,” the company said.
In a previous interview, Presto told Insider that the voice ordering system is nearly 100% accurate and allows restaurants to redeploy labor resources to other tasks.
“Checkers & Rally’s desire to take the industry forward through disruptive innovation is inspiring, and Presto is fully committed to supporting this bold vision,” Rajat Suri, founder and CEO of Presto, said in a statement.
Checkers, which has 898 restaurants, is not alone in adding new technologies to help streamline daily operations amid a shortage in labor.
Last year, New York restaurateur Danny Meyer’s investment firm backed labor-retention tool 7shifts. Applebee’s, Taco Bell, and Chick-fil-A also tapped labor-hiring tool Landed to fill jobs at dozens of restaurants.
Others are looking at automation at the drive-thru, an ordering channel that typically generates 60% to 70% of a chain’s total sales.
Startup Bite Ninja is using gig workers trained to take fast-food drive-thru orders remotely from anywhere in the US.
McDonald’s previously invested in drive-thru technology. It owned Dynamic Yield but sold it last month to Mastercard. Dynamic Yield’s AI-powered technology is still used to automate upselling in drive-thrus and ordering kiosks at McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S., Australia, and Canada. McDonald’s would not reveal how many locations use Dynamic Yield, only stating that the chain “plans to further integrate Dynamic Yield’s capabilities globally and across ordering channels.”
Are you a food tech startup disrupting the restaurant industry? Contact this reporter via email at email@example.com.