White Castle, yes harold and kumar fame wants to roll out AI-enabled voices to over 100 drive-thrus by 2024 in the hopes that people can get to their sliders faster perhaps with less arguing with someone over the speakers.
Working with voice recognition company SoundHound for the technology, White Castle will have an AI voice on its speakers that will interact with customers and figure out what the orders are. The companies promise that it will process orders in just over a minute.
If you’ve been to a drive-thru recently, you’ll know that the menu board and speakers are now big and fancy. But you also know that it still involves yelling from the driver’s seat, barking orders, and often mishearing words by an employee.
White Castle’s AI-enabled drive-thru looks exactly like the normal human experience behind the microphone, but the screen tells customers they’ll soon be interacting with a voice assistant and displays helpful phrases like “I need more time! ” And well, the voice-driven AI is still learning the best way to process different accents. soundhound says the edge customers still have the option to speak to a human employee on-site if AI self-service receives incorrect orders or does not fill.
SoundHound and White Castle have already worked together for a proof of concept with fewer participating locations. The Wall Street Journal reported In June, customers had mixed reactions to AI self-service, with some expressing frustration and others relief that they didn’t have to talk to cranky employees.
The company did not share which White Castle restaurants will feature AI drive-thru, but a representative confirmed that the technology is active in some locations in the Midwest region. White Castle said adding AI drive-thrus is not expected to result in layoffs.
Other burger joints want to bring AI to their own drive-thrus, a space that truly tests the listening skills of fast-food workers and the patience of a driver who wants fries. Wendy’s and Google announced plans to start testing the AI-powered drive-thrus in June.
SoundHound said its AI is fully comprehensive, with no human helping it get the orders right. Google’s work with Wendy’s has a human employee overseeing AI self-service.
It will be interesting to see if AI-powered drive-thrus are any faster, and how much AI can block crying children and drunken friends in the backseat.