Presto CEO of restaurant drive-thru is headed

The planets are aligning around voice artificial intelligence (AI) as everyday business use cases begin to emerge, perhaps nowhere more so than in the restaurant drive-thru.

Voice AI used by Quick-Service Restaurants (QSRs) and fast-food chains like Applebee’s, McDonald’s, and other top brands that have deployed AI for drive-throughs is evidence of the recent deal between ChatGPT maker OpenAI and Presto. Proof of this. – Through experiences that are good for business.

In a conversation with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, Presto interim CEO Krishna Gupta said that voice AI is “developing rapidly” in the drive-thru arena, and that in doing so, restaurant chains beset by labor shortages and classic drive-thru snags have a better way to offer. . To do the work.

Presto Voice is the company’s proprietary voice AI, and combined with ChatGPT, the company believes order sizes will increase, labor issues will be eased, and restaurants will see improvements in the customer experience.

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“With OpenAI specifically and especially with the big language models, our job is to integrate it into our existing product workflows and make things faster, more personalized and provide capabilities that obviously weren’t there before,” he said. “All these things are important at the drive-thru.”

Gupta says the ChatGPT integration is also important because “as voice becomes increasingly human, you can respond at the edge, and you can do it faster because speed of service is so important to customers.”

Asked whether Presto chose ChatGPT to improve order accuracy or experience, Gupta said, “It’s both. Higher accuracy is a goal of our team in general, and we’re at a very high level of accuracy.” That means happier customers who don’t just drive by to find their fries missing, but “the restaurant either has to replace a full-time employee, or allowing him to focus on high-value things.”

Edge cases that AI cannot solve, such as requests for items not on the menu, can be handled by humans without losing business or reducing customer satisfaction. Its other superpower is consistent upselling, which can increase order value by an average of 6%, he said.

Gupta likens it to gamers who know the right combination of buttons to press on a controller to achieve certain results: “That’s what upsells are like,” he said. “You have to figure out what’s the perfect combination of buttons, the main sequence and then the side, and then drinks, desserts and whatever, and the size of those.”

He added, “AI is leading to the perfect upsell. Upsells happening today are far from perfect upsells. Many times this doesn’t happen because people are tired or forgetful. AI never gets tired, AI never forgets,” and it can learn successful combinations.

Restaurant AI barriers are disappearing

While upselling is important, Gupta says, “What’s driving it is more efficiency. This can be from the labor automation side or from the upsell side, where for the same cost of delivery, you are getting more revenue. It’s driving more dollars into your margin. Everyone is focused on their margins. That’s what makes this restaurant stock go up.”

While not new to the fast-food space, voice AI is not yet commonplace, though that could change if large language models like ChatGPT are introduced. It is a sea change happening before our eyes.

“One of the best things ChatGPT can do for any application like ours is to dramatically increase general awareness of the power of AI,” he said. “The thing that Presto is talking about might not be sci-fi, it’s something real, and it’s okay for us to implement it.”

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Regarding the reluctance on the part of operators to disappear, he added, “I don’t want to call it technophobia, but that sort of, ‘AI is good or not, is it real or not,’ barrier, I think, is disappearing very quickly. I would say that We’re at a point now where most chains are figuring out how to adopt it, who to work with and how fast they’re going to move on it.”

More important than the qualities of a voice AI is listening to the voice of the customer, and Gupta is focusing on that.

“There has been an evolution in the quality of the human voice, which is improving rapidly,” he said. “As someone who also runs a venture capital firm, I know all the new companies coming up that are trying to clone the humanity of Voice. We can now probably do things like imitating Ben Affleck’s voice for Dunkin’, which, I think, would be a very powerful thing.”

Presto will be the first to find out how powerful the new applications of voice AI can be, with its impressive list of clients who, he says, “want to track and monitor how these deployments are going nationwide across franchises in real-time. way.”

“That’s where I would say our enterprise readiness and the franchisees we’ve worked with nationwide come in, because we understand how to implement enterprise-grade technology that powers the entire deployment behind the scenes.”

The Future is Talking

Adoption by chains will vary depending on how they want to partner with technology providers, sometimes choosing one vendor and sometimes testing multiple. That voice AI will play a big role in drive-thru is seen as a foregone conclusion by those closest to the process.

Gupta said, “Do you think a person will be taking your order at the drive-thru two years from now, three years from now? Why would they? So that inevitability, I think, drives decision-making, which happens for certain products and certain industries, and I think [voice AI] One of them.”

Not only that, the use of technology will rapidly expand from fast-food to QSR, which he sees as an inevitability given the pressure chains face in a changing landscape.

“People are generally ordering more delivery than they were before the pandemic, although dining at home is back in a very meaningful way,” he said.

“What comes out of this is that drive-thru has grown particularly big. I think every QSR chain now sees drive-thru as an attractive and important part of its strategy. They’re all investing in figuring out what the future holds for their drive-thru. This is not a temporary situation.”

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