CKE Restaurants, the company which controls fast food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, announced on Thursday that the brands would use artificial intelligence in their drive-thru systems at select locations across the country.
Leading corporations and investors have poured considerable funds into developing AI tools meant for consumer products and business solutions in recent months. The two brands will incorporate Tori, an AI voice ordering platform created by OpenCity, to increase “order accuracy” and create a “significant impact to labor efficiencies,” according to a press release.
“The implementation of OpenCity’s AI technology at our drive-thru’s has significantly benefited our business by enhancing the speed and accuracy of order processing, resulting in reduced wait times for customers and increased efficiency for our staff,” CKE Restaurants CTO Phil Crawford said. “The AI technology has transformed our drive-thru experience, providing us with a competitive edge in the market and helping us to better serve our guests.”
Customers who arrive at drive-thru lines can place their orders through a “digital interaction” with Tori before they pay an employee for their meal, thereby allowing associates to “focus more on providing better customer service and preparing timely and freshly made orders.”
Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are two of several fast food restaurants to pivot toward increased automation. McDonald’s partnered with IBM to automate drive-thrus and unveiled voice-ordering technology at multiple Chicago restaurants two years ago after purchasing several AI startups, while Chipotle introduced a robotic chip machine in California after the state passed a law to create a council with authority to raise fast food minimum wages.
The trend occurs as labor shortages persist well after the lockdown-induced recession: there are currently nearly two open positions for every unemployed worker in the United States, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released two months ago, increasing operational expenses for businesses and contributing to broader inflationary pressures.
Tori integrates with existing point-of-sale and headset technology at restaurants to take orders with “zero wait time,” according to a webpage from OpenCity. The AI platform can also offer personalized recommendations to increase the average revenue per order.
High Noon Restaurant Group, a franchisee for Popeyes based in Louisiana, deployed the system last year, resulting in a 20% faster speed of service and a 20% increase in satisfaction.
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The rush for companies to implement AI solutions into their products and services accelerated when ChatGPT, a mass-market AI chatbot capable of writing computer code and emails in a matter of seconds, rapidly gained popularity across the world. Microsoft, which invested billions of dollars into ChatGPT creator OpenAI, announced that the system would be incorporated into search engine Bing and internet browser Edge, while Google revealed that Bard, an experimental conversational AI service, would soon be added to the company’s search engine.
Some analysts have raised concerns about possible widespread technological employment even as the novel AI applications create productivity increases for workers and businesses. One recent forecast from Goldman Sachs predicted that AI could eliminate 7% of positions in the United States, largely in sectors that rely upon office work such as administrative support and legal, while positions in sectors such as building and grounds maintenance, construction, logistics, and healthcare support are predicted to remain broadly intact.