QSR Uses Drive-Thru Voice-Recognition to Offset Labor Woes

An Atlanta Checkers franchisee is using automation to maximize order efficiencies.

July 06, 2021

Fast Food Drive Thru Sign

ATLANTA—A franchisee with four Checkers restaurants in the Atlanta area has turned to new, automated drive-thru service so help solve her labor shortage and avoid raising wages, which would result in higher prices foods, reports BusinessInsider.com.

Shana Gonzales in December 2020 started using technology from Valyant AI, a startup that makes voice-recognition systems for restaurants, in one of her drive-thrus. The system takes orders, notes modifications and suggests add-ons, then feeds the orders directly to the kitchen and cashier.

Gonzales views the technology as a way to let her staff better focus on customers. “We'll look back and say why didn't we do this sooner,” said Gonzales, who plans to roll out Valyant's technology at her three other locations.

Although raising wages to $14 or $15 an hour would help staff her restaurants, Gonzales said she also would need to increase menu prices. She had raised hourly wages for entry-level positions to about $10 from around $9 pre-pandemic but still couldn’t hire enough employees.

Even before the pandemic, foodservice operations were turning to digital ordering to keep staff costs down. McDonald’s is testing voice-recognition software at some drive-thrus in Chicago, while other restaurants like Starbucks, Panera Bread and Burger King are urging customers to order using apps, QR codes and digital kiosks, which reduce the need for staffers.