Drive-Thru Technology: Advancements in Voice Recognition and Ordering Systems

May 05, 2023

Times are changing fast, and technology is taking the world by storm, playing a significant role in every aspect of life, including how we order food.

While many of us are used to asking Google Home what the weather will be like for the day or our smart speakers to order snacks and toiletries when we run out, we can now use artificial intelligence to order food from drive-thru windows.

Although it sounds like something from the future, the truth is that the future is here, and so are automated drive-thru ordering systems. But how accurate can these systems be, and is this even a good idea?

Are You Ready for Innovative Drive-Thrus?

In today’s society, everyone is on the go and searching for a quicker, easier way to accomplish all their daily tasks. Even ordering fast food doesn’t seem to be fast enough.

drive thru windows

Now, restaurants are integrating voice AI into their ordering systems. Some companies have already started using these products to free up workers to tackle other jobs and are seeing the benefits right off the bat.

“Restaurants using the voice-ordering technology are seeing about 85% order accuracy.” This statement comes from CEO Chris Kempczinski. He is referring to 10 Chicago-based McDonald’s that have already integrated this AI ordering system into their locations.

“Only about a fifth of orders need to be taken by a human at those locations.” he also stated, quoted in a CNBC article in June of 2021.

Can AI Technology at Drive-Thru Windows Increase Productivity?

If AI at the drive-thru window can successfully take orders and relay them to the employees working the grills, it can positively impact the rest of the business.

The increase in drive-thru visits has restaurant owners searching for ways to increase productivity while maintaining customer satisfaction. Technology that can accurately take orders checks both boxes.

SoundHound AI, an AI company participating in AI ordering systems, developed a way for restaurants to incorporate advanced AI and voice recognition technology into phone systems. This allows customers to place orders by calling in and talking to a bot.

Delegating a large and time-consuming task to a computer program will tackle many issues restaurants are currently dealing with:

  • Understaffing due to a lack of people interested in working for fast-food restaurants
  • Improving the restaurant’s efficiency by increasing the number of orders they can take at one time
  • Controlling costs as AI replaces one or multiple employees needed to handle phone calls or drive-thru orders

Innovative technology in this industry can benefit those struggling to keep enough employees on staff to provide the proper service customers are demanding.

Are People Ready for This Type of Technological Advancements at Their Favorite Drive-Thrus?

We can see how this type of service can benefit business owners. McDonald’s is already announcing their satisfaction with various trials and the interest in using AI technology in other areas of the restaurant business, like grills and fryers.

But what does the public have to say?

According to various surveys conducted by numerous sources, the verdict still favors advanced technology.

In one survey from 2019, the study showed that two-thirds  of adults surveyed were interested in this type of technology. Of these 346 people, 39% stated they were “very or extremely interested.”

There is little doubt that this interest peaked during the COVID-19 pandemic, and even more people in 2023 would be accepting of the idea.

How Can Voice Recognition Improve the Drive-Thru Experience?

Customers can look forward to various benefits when their favorite restaurants begin implementing integrative technology in their drive-thrus. Although fast food and order-ahead capabilities are great, there are still many areas where AI can make it even better.

  • Takes the place of numerous people, creating less wait time for orders
  • Eliminates the face-to-face interaction many people try to avoid
  • Eliminates the rushed feeling you get when you are talking to a person
  • Opens customers up to a more controlled ordering system

With the ability to phone in or speak to an AI bot in the drive-thru lane, customers can appreciate that ordering their food and moving through the process can make it faster.

The Proof Is Already Out There: AI Drive-Thru Technology Is a Hit

drive thru window

Although AI voice recognition at the drive-thru window isn’t really a thing at this point, other forms of order-taking by way of advanced technology are already replacing traditional methods.

There has been a significant increase in mobile app and mobile ordering over the last few years, allowing customers to quickly order their food right from their smart device or smart speakers and pick it up without waiting in line.

This gives employees more availability to serve dine-in customers, cook food, and keep the facilities clean and running properly.

Taco Bell has recently adopted a new way to offer drive-thrus in California. This drive-thru looks like something straight from the movies or pulled from the future. It is a two-story building with four lanes. One lane offers a traditional drive-thru setting, while the other three are for mobile pickups.

KFC also adopted an innovative drive-thru idea, using QR codes to assist customers in picking up orders placed ahead of time.

Should You Start Thinking About Upgrading to Voice Recognition Drive-Thrus?

Many restaurants have already started showing interest in upgrading how they take orders, with AI systems being the top addition to their services.

If you are in this industry, looking into your options before you find yourself behind the curve is always a good idea.

With increased drive-thru visits and decreased fast-food employees, voice-recognition ordering systems seem like the best solution for everyone. With so many popular fast-food chains already on board, it is a trend not to be ignored.

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