Checkers & Rally’s is rolling out voice-ordering bots to take drive-thru orders at 267 restaurants amid a crippling labor shortage in the industry

Checkers
is testing AI-powered voice bots in drive-thru lanes. Checkers
  • Drive-thru lanes generate anywhere from 60% to 70% of sales for fast-food chains.
  • Chains are investing in automation to increase sales and relieve labor pressures at the drive-thru.
  • Checkers & Rally’s is deploying voice ordering bots by tablet maker Presto at 267 restaurants. 

Outside McDonald’s, the next burger chain betting big on drive-thru innovation is Checkers & Rally’s. 

The restaurant company, known for its double drive-thru lanes, announced plans Monday to launch voice ordering bots at 267 corporate stores in partnership with Presto. Checkers is now the first national restaurant concept to scale the use of AI-powered voice assistants at the drive-thru, which will be rolled out throughout 2022. 

The move comes as the industry faces a massive labor shortage. In November, 920,000 employees quit working at restaurants and hotels, surpassing August’s high of of 867,000 in the second half of 2021, according to Labor Department data.

Checkers said using automated voice bots to take orders at the drive-thru will allow restaurants to redeploy existing workers to “more people-dependent” tasks that enhance the guest experience. 

“Checkers & Rally’s is the pioneer of the double drive-thru restaurant model, so our decision to again lead the industry with the largest rollout of an A.I.-based voice assistant solution should be no surprise,” CEO Frances Allen said in a statement. “As a company, we embrace technology that will help our team members maximize time and efficiency while making their jobs easier and more enjoyable, creating a better experience for them as well as our guests.”

Restaurant software provider Presto is known in the industry for introducing pay-at-the-table tablets in 2011. One of its biggest customers is Applebee’s. In November, it announced plans to go public through a SPAC deal with holding company Ventoux CCM Acquisition Corp. The combined companies are valued at $1 billion.

Presto added voice ordering to its suite of front-of-the-house management tools last year “to capture a significant share of the $205 billion restaurant labor productivity market,” the company said.

In a previous interview, Presto told Insider that the voice ordering system is nearly 100% accurate and allows restaurants to redeploy labor resources to other tasks. 

“Checkers & Rally’s desire to take the industry forward through disruptive innovation is inspiring, and Presto is fully committed to supporting this bold vision,”  Rajat Suri, founder and CEO of Presto, said in a statement.  

Checkers Rally's
& Rally’s rendering of automated drive-thrus. Checkers

Checkers, which has 898 restaurants, is not alone in adding new technologies to help streamline daily operations amid a shortage in labor 

Last year, New York restaurateur Danny Meyer’s investment firm backed labor-retention tool 7shifts. Applebee’s, Taco Bell, and Chick-fil-A also tapped labor-hiring tool Landed to fill jobs at dozens of restaurants. 

Others are looking at automation at the drive-thru, an ordering channel that typically generates 60% to 70% of a chain’s total sales

Startup Bite Ninja is using gig workers trained to take fast-food drive-thru orders remotely from anywhere in the US. 

McDonald’s previously invested in drive-thru technology. It owned Dynamic Yield but sold it last month to Mastercard. Dynamic Yield’s AI-powered technology is still used to automate upselling in drive-thrus and ordering kiosks at McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S., Australia, and Canada. McDonald’s would not reveal how many locations use Dynamic Yield, only stating that the chain “plans to further integrate Dynamic Yield’s capabilities globally and across ordering channels.” 

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