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AI chatbots replacing part-timers of fast-food restaurants

AI chatbots replacing part-timers of fast-food restaurants

Posted July. 12, 2023 08:00,   

Updated July. 12, 2023 08:00


White Castle’s AI chatbot, Julia, has become a source of pride for the American fast-food hamburger chain. Julia actively suggests customers upgrade their menu selections to cheeseburgers and shakes, leading to higher-priced orders. While Julia may encounter difficulties in understanding customer orders at times, the company remains content with its performance and anticipates improvements in the future. Del Taco, another fast-food restaurant chain, has also implemented AI chatbots for order-taking at their drive-thru locations, utilizing a voice recognition system.

According to Bloomberg’s report, several American fast-food chains are increasingly adopting AI-driven systems for their drive-through operations. These chains include Wendy’s, which partnered with Google to develop an AI chatbot, as well as McDonald’s, White Castle, Del Taco, and Carl’s Jr. These restaurants have initiated the deployment of AI-powered chatbots to handle order-taking duties.

Despite occasional difficulties in comprehending customer voices, businesses are generally content with the AI chatbots’ ability to sell without hesitation. According to Presto Automation, a company specializing in AI-driven automation solutions for drive-thru restaurants, AI chatbots are programmed to suggest higher-priced options to customers in 80 percent of order interactions. Unlike human sellers, AI chatbots can make these recommendations without experiencing any sense of shame, allowing them to influence customers to choose more expensive menu items potentially.

The system is currently at the trial stage, so the AI chatbot system is accompanied by human clerks who intervene in case of any malfunctions. According to the Wall Street Journal, White Castle’s Julia required human assistance in three out of ten orders. While some critics argue that Julia is merely an automated machine capable of recognizing basic ord rather than true artificial intelligence, Presto claims that Julia has effectively replaced more than 40 hours of human work.

There are concerns that introducing AI-powered systems for taking orders and the widespread implementation of kiosk counters during the Covid-19 pandemic will further contribute to job losses within the in-store labor force. McDonald’s is presently conducting test operations of an unmanned store in Texas.

Hyoun-Soo Kim kimhs@donga.com