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Fast Food Science Technology

This AI Voice Assistant Is Making The Future Of Drive Thrus Faster

With kiosks and mobile ordering already speeding up fast food restaurants, there’s been one area that’s still lagging: The drive-thru. On average, folks in these lines wait just under 4 minutes for their order, but that number is a slight increase up from years past.

One of the ways companies may begin to decrease that wait time in your car is with artificial intelligence, and some of the first tests of this technology are already underway.

Photo courtesy of Valyant AI

A spot you can find AI helping in drive-thrus today is at a location of Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard in Denver, Colorado. They’ve teamed up with artificial intelligence firm Valyant AI to begin testing the usage of a voice assistant that interacts with customers and takes their orders.

The AI is programmed with a voice similar to Amazon’s “Alexa,” and can list customizable options as well as offer combo meals, upgrades, and changes to someone’s order. Once that exchange is completed, the program submits the order to the typical screen cooks in the kitchen look at when prepping meals.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Valyant chief executive Rob Carpenter claims that the AI voice assistant is not designed to take away jobs. Instead, it can help reduce long lines at the drive-thru while staffers focus on prepping food and getting those orders out. Wait times should cut down overall as a result.

 Photo courtesy of Valyant AI

So far, the Good Times location has seen some encouraging results with their AI drive-thru test. The voice assistant is currently handling 90 percent of all orders, after starting out just taking care of breakfast. On average, according to Carpenter, wait times are down 10 to 20%, with some cut by as much as half. The actual employees working alongside the AI assistant have enjoyed it so far, saying it reduces pressure and makes their jobs easier.

As for the customers interacting, Carpenter noted that several have already adapted to the AI thanks to interactions with Siri, Alexa, and Google Home in other environments. “Customers have slowed their speech and been more concise with the software,” he said, indicating that it’s a relationship between both customer and AI that will make it work at its best.

While time will tell exactly how prevalent software like this becomes, early signs are that artificial intelligence can make the lives of drive-thru employees and customers easier, without a need to cut jobs.

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Fast Food

Study Names Burger King Fastest Drive-Thru Chain In The U.S.

When we think of drive-thrus, we usually think of pulling into a line, ordering, and getting out with our meal within a couple of minutes. Speed has been the name of the game and why fast food is so popular, but while a new study suggests that perceived speed is not what it used to be, there are some restaurants that still excel when it comes to getting your food as quickly as possible.

fastest drive-thruPhoto: Miosotis Jade on Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0

According to a study by QSR Magazine, Burger King is the fastest drive-thru chain in the country in 2018, with customers waiting about 3 minutes and 13 seconds from pull-up to exit. Following BK on the list, in order, were Dunkin’, KFC, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Arby’s, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Chick-fil-A, and McDonald’s.

Overall, the average chain has a speed of 3 minutes and 54 seconds, which is actually a 9-second increase from last year. It indicates that drive-thrus are overall getting slower, but that could be more representative of fast food’s evolution in recent years.

Study authors noted that an increased focus on customer satisfaction and the technologies behind it has led to a decrease in speed of service. However, guests don’t seem to mind as much if the food and service are both solid, as places like Chick-fil-A enjoy plenty of sales volume despite a wait time of 4 minutes and 20 seconds on average.

Speed is still important to both the customers and the brands, though, and modern technologies are being explored to try to improve both quickness and service quality at the same time. Mobile ordering, artificial intelligence, and digital menu boards are some of the things companies are looking at.

For now, though, you can rest assured knowing that chains are still pretty fast, as even McDonald’s was under the 5-minute mark for speed. If you want the quickest drive-thru order you can get right now, though, Burger King seems like your best bet.