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  • Writer's pictureJaime González Gasque

Voice assistant takes orders from drive-thru customers

Today, technology has become an important part of the business. For long term business success, implementing new technology is the key to be lead in the competitive market. McDonald’s acquires Apprente (a startup building conversational voice agents) to bring voice technology to the drive-thru to reinvent the fast food experience.

What is Apprente voice technology to Drive-thru?

Apprente company is specialized in building voice-based agents. It will help McDonald’s in taking orders in multiple languages and accents. McDonald’s has been testing Apparent’s technology in several locations and expects it will allow for “faster, simpler and more accurate order taking” at its drive-thru.

Why Voice technology is Adopted

According to MacDonald’s, it will not only low wait times but also allow restaurants to operate with a smaller staff. It can be used in mobile and kiosk ordering.

Voice technology will be used in creating a drive-thru to suggest the food tailored by things like the weather, current restaurant traffic, and trending menu items. Once customers have started ordering, the display can also recommend additional items based on what they’ve already chosen.

The Golden Arches said McD has tested Apprente’s technology at selected restaurants. It works as follows: you drive up to the menu board, speak to a voice-powered machine (just like ordering stuff from Amazon’s Alexa) to place an order, and drive up to the window to pick up the order.

Gone are the days of having to repeat your order five times into the drive-thru, which ultimately slows down the drive-thru lane. So, that’s a positive from a customer service and productivity standpoint.

Covid-19 has accelerated the enthusiasm for convenience that the channel offers with drive-thru visits up 26% from April to June this year and representing a staggering 42% of all restaurant visits.

And the future’s looking bright too, with 57% of respondents to a recent QSR study saying they would order from fast-casual restaurants more frequently if more of them had drive-thrus. But most restaurants are running drive-thru the same way they have since the ‘50s. The industry is ripe for change and there are promising examples of the opportunities for improving the channel and making it more profitable.

In fact, the QSR study also shows that people are ready for digital transformation at the window.

  • Over 20% of both GenZ and millennials would welcome artificial intelligence to help them make decisions when placing an order.

  • 30% favor an order system that remembers them and their preferences.

  • 36% of respondents said they would like to see automated technology detecting car arrival and pre-ordering brought to the car.

Read on to discover the key factors that determine success at the drive-thru window and at some of the latest tech that promises to drive that success in the future.

There have been long lines at drive-thru lanes throughout the country during the pandemic for obvious reasons. Long lines can bring a drive-thru to a halt and put off potential customers. That makes speed of service one of the most important factors in determining the success of the drive-thru channel for fast-casual restaurants.

An improvement of just a few seconds per order can quickly add up to more sales and happier customers.

In recent years, speed of service has declined, in part due to an abundance of choice and upsells pushing the growth of the average number of items per order. In 2003, drive-thru times averaged 190 seconds, growing to 234 seconds in 2018. And this year, a QSR study found that wait times increased by nearly 30 seconds from 2019.

As a result, fast-casual chains are looking at new technology that can reduce waiting times and get those lines moving faster.


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