Human Workers Take Charge in 70% of AI-Driven Drive-thru Fast Food Orders

  • Presto’s AI Dependence: Presto Automations, known for AI-driven drive-thru tech, admits in an SEC filing that over 70% of its orders rely on human agents for assistance.
  • Contradictory Claims: Despite prior assertions of 95% autonomy, Presto acknowledges the need for “humans-in-the-loop” for efficient order processing.
  • OpenAI Partnership: Presto had announced a collaboration with OpenAI to enhance its drive-thru voice assistant with ChatGPT, aiming for more natural and human-like interactions.
  • Automation for Profit: The company aims to increase profitability by reducing human intervention, targeting a future where only 30% of orders require assistance from human agents.
  • Cost-Cutting Measures: Facing increased expenses, Presto cut 17% of its global full-time employees and reduced monthly spending, pointing to the challenges of relying on off-site human agents.
  • Industry Trends: Many US restaurant chains, including McDonald’s and Taco Bell, are turning to AI for order-taking, with Wendy’s automating drive-thru and emphasizing the effectiveness of its chatbot in customer service.
McDonald's Drive-Thru (Credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
McDonald’s Drive-Thru (Credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

A company that makes technology for drive-thru restaurants and uses AI chatbots admitted that more than 70% of its orders get help from people working off-site. This information comes from a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in November.

Presto Automations, the company behind the drive-thru technology used by fast food chains like Del Taco, Hardee’s, and Carl’s Jr., had previously said that over 95% of orders taken by its chatbots happened without any help from staff. The company had even announced a partnership with OpenAI in March 2023 to improve its drive-thru voice assistant with ChatGPT, making interactions more natural and human-like.

However, the recent SEC filing revealed that the company actually depends a lot on human agents, which it refers to as “humans-in-the-loop,” to assist the AI in taking orders.

A sign at a Del Taco drive-thru location in Riverside, California, tells customers to “order as you normally would” with the Presto Automation’s ordering assistant. (Credit: Mark Abramson/Bloomberg)
A sign at a Del Taco location in Riverside, California, tells customers to “order as you normally would” with the Presto Automation’s ordering assistant. (Credit: Mark Abramson/Bloomberg)

“Currently, over 70% of orders taken by our Presto Voice solution require human agent intervention,” it said in the filing. “As we continue to improve our AI accuracy and further deploy Presto Voice across store locations, we believe that the percentage of orders that do not require any human agent intervention will reach 30% or better.”

Drive-Thru Automation and Cost Challenges

The company believes that using more automation for orders will make them earn more money.

According to Bloomberg, Presto mentioned that workers outside the main office, like those in the Philippines helping the chatbots, will become more expensive.

In November, the company cut costs by letting go of around 17% of its global full-time employees and reducing its monthly spending.

Business Insider contacted Presto for a statement, but they didn’t respond during regular working hours.

Many US restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Popeyes, and Wingstop, are using AI to take orders and decrease the need for human workers. They use AI-powered voice bots for drive-thru and phone orders.

Wendy’s is automating its drive-thru and teaching its chatbot to understand customer language when taking orders and suggesting better deals.

Even though Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor said the chatbot won’t replace human workers, chief information officer Kevin Vasconi mentioned that the chatbot is as good as their best customer service representative and is probably better on average.

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Source(s): Business Insider; Bloomberg

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