Conversational AI Powers Drive-Thru


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Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken Restaurant is using a new conversational artificial intelligence (AI) solution to increase the speed of service and shorten wait times in their drive-thrus. The solution, created by Hi Auto, greets each drive-thru guest and answers questions about the menu before taking and confirming their order. 

“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.”

Last year, drive-thru orders in the United States increased by 22% due to the pandemic, accounting for 44% of all off-premises orders across the restaurant industry. Meanwhile, average drive-thru times increased by nearly 30 seconds. More customers can lead to added stress on employees who must quickly and accurately take and fulfill orders. By augmenting human employees with an AI assistant, employees can focus on high-touch duties, including fulfilling the orders, managing inventory and interacting with in-store customers. 

“At Lee's, we met a team that puts its heart and soul into serving its customers,” said Roy Baharav, chief executive officer and co-founder of Hi Auto. “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.” 

Created by Hi Auto, the AI solution greets the guest, answers questions, suggests menu items and enters the orders into the point-of-sale system. The technology isolates the consumer’s speech to ensure order accuracy and converses like a person. It is always polite, and if the guest asks an unrelated question or asks for something not on the menu, the AI automatically switches to a Lee’s employee to intervene. It also seamlessly integrates with Lee’s existing employee headset system, allowing employees to provide real-time updates to inventory, as needed. The AI solution runs on Intel® Xeon® processors in the cloud and Intel® NUC. 

“We’re increasingly seeing restaurants interested in leveraging AI to deliver actionable data and personalize customer experiences,” said Joe Jensen, vice president of the Internet of Things Group and general manager of Retail, Banking, Hospitality and Education at Intel. “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.”

Lee’s is planning to deploy Hi Auto’s conversational AI in additional drive-thru locations. Pilots with the largest QSRs are already underway. And Hi Auto’s engineers are adding Spanish language capabilities to the solution, which is available as an Intel IoT Market Ready Solution.

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