SoundHound’s Flippy AI Voice Assistant Transforms Drive-Thru Experience
White Castle, the well-known fast-food restaurant known for its sliders, is introducing artificial intelligence (AI) into its drive-thru operations.
The company has joined forces with SoundHound, a speech recognition firm, to deploy AI-driven voices to interact with customers and take their orders. This AI voice assistant, called Flippy, aims to be swift, precise, and friendly, processing orders in just over a minute. Fast right?
The AI-driven drive-thru is currently operational at some Midwest locations, with plans to expand to more than 100 locations by 2024. White Castle believes that this AI drive-thru will enhance customer service, efficiency, and sales while reducing errors and wait times.
Considering most “human” drive through have issues with customer accents (from our own experience!), we would love to see how well this works out.
How the AI Drive-Thru Operates
The AI drive-thru resembles a conventional human-operated one but features a screen notifying customers that they will soon engage with a voice assistant. Helpful messages like “I need more time!” or “Repeat that, please” are displayed.
The AI voice assistant utilizes SoundHound’s technology, which is based on end-to-end AI, meaning it relies entirely on intelligent automation and does not require human assistance. The technology can handle complex orders, such as customizing burgers or adding sauces, and can also upsell items or offer promotions.
The AI voice assistant is capable of adapting to various accents, dialects, languages, and background noises like crying children or barking dogs. However, if it makes mistakes or fails to complete orders, customers still have the option to speak with an on-site human employee. Good to see there is a fail safe just in case. We do have an issue where advanced AI suffers from hallucinations, let’s hope this is not the case here.
Benefits and Challenges of the AI Drive-Thru
White Castle claims that the AI drive-thru has advantages for both customers and employees. Customers benefit from faster and more convenient order placement, avoiding miscommunication or frustration. For employees, the AI drive-thru liberates them from repetitive tasks, allowing them to concentrate on other aspects of their work. We do feel that this might effect workers on a deeper level and may end up replacing them.
Nonetheless, the AI drive-thru also presents challenges and limitations. Some customers may prefer human interaction or be uncomfortable providing personal information or payment details to an AI voice. The AI voice assistant’s personality or tone could provoke mixed reactions, affecting customer satisfaction or loyalty.
Another challenge is ensuring data privacy and security. White Castle asserts that it adheres to relevant data protection and privacy laws and does not share customer data with third parties without consent. Nevertheless, customers may still have concerns about data usage or storage.
The Future of AI in Drive-Thrus
White Castle is not the only fast-food chain experimenting with AI in drive-thrus. Other chains like Wendy’s and Del Taco are also employing conversational AI for automated order-taking. These chains aim to leverage AI to enhance customer experiences, boost efficiency, and cut costs.
However, AI in drive-thrus is an emerging technology with technical and social challenges. As AI continues to advance and become more common in the fast-food industry, it will raise important questions about its impact on human workers, customer relationships, and ethical considerations.
We really have to think about the human touch and weather or not it is right to remove that from our day to day lives. Personally we believe this shouldn’t be automated, making food sure but the first point of contact should be with another human being. As we say just because you can add AI to something does not mean you have to.