Everyone loves the convenience of ordering from a fast-food restaurant, and even more so if there’s a drive-thru – that is, until there’s a line wrapping all the way around the block or the double cheeseburger, no onions you were looking forward to all day is piled high with onions.

Certain chains have aimed to streamline and elevate the drive-thru experience by assigning multiple employees to stand outside and take orders. It might seem impossible to further streamline the modern drive-thru, but conversational AI technology is being developed that accomplishes just that by delivering a fast, accurate, and friendly automated drive-thru experience.

What Problems do Drive-Thru Restaurants Currently Face?

Compared to casual dining, customers have less overall satisfaction with fast food. More than that, if they have a bad experience, 35 percent of customers will not return.

Whether it’s interacting with disgruntled employees, experiencing slow service and long wait times, or missing items in an order, the current drive-thru process is filled with opportunities to have a bad experience.

Employee Burnout
Understandably, employees get tired of enthusiastically taking so many orders or filling too many roles in the drive-through process. This leads to employee burnout, only exacerbating the problems that customers face in traditional restaurant drive-thrus.

Labor Shortages
Demand for employment in fast-food establishments has decreased over the years, but the number of jobs has rapidly increased since 2010. With fewer teenagers willing to work, stricter immigration enforcement, and many opting to stay home on unemployment benefits as restaurants struggle to afford fair wages, labor shortages are becoming more and more prevalent in the fast-food industry.

The pandemic has only made matters worse, and there is already a high turnover rate for fast-food jobs, which can fall between 130 percent to 150 percent.

Slow and Inaccurate Orders
Traditional fast-food operations, despite the speed inherent in the model, are rife with inefficiencies. Long wait times and lines, typically occurring at peak times, can deter customers.

In addition, miscommunication between customers and employees can create order errors ranging from missing items to added allergens. As opposed to a sit-down establishment where customers can easily point out the error, fast-food customers have likely already left the drive-thru when they realize a mistake was made.

Rather than hire more employees, businesses can actually solve these problems through automation, and save money in the process. Conversational AI – technology enables customers to have full conversations with a machine with ease – virtually eliminating any miscommunication or order error, while also speeding up the drive-thru process and allowing labor to be efficiently reallocated.

With many drive-thru and fast-food jobs sitting empty, employees are stretched thin and customers experience even greater frustration. Nevertheloess, conversational AI is poised to solve these problems and usher in a future of automated drive-thrus, happy customers, and empowered employees.

How Can Conversational AI Help Drive-Thru Restaurants?

Innovative conversational AI offers many perks for drive-thru businesses. Here are a few.

Smarter Ordering and Upselling
AI drive-thrus can leverage the benefits of conversational AI technology to:

  • accurately take orders
  • suggest alternative menu items if an item is unavailable
  • greet customers
  • instruct customers to move up to pay at the pickup window
  • upsell at high rates
  • answer questions, even specific inquiries about a menu item’s nutritional value or allergens


AI drive-thrus and their cutting-edge technology increase overall customer satisfaction and bring in more revenue.


Available 24/7/365

Conversational AI restaurants are also better equipped to address the labor shortage caused by high turnover rates and the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike employees who can call in sick or cannot work during holidays, the AI will always be there and can always help understaffed establishments.

Conversational AI Use Cases

Conversational AI technology can even work in tandem with self-ordering kiosks to create a fully automated customer experience. These automated drive-thru restaurants leverage different technological assets, all with unique benefits:

  • Conversational AI kiosks can greet customers and take orders, allowing employees to concentrate on speedy food preparation
  • Self-ordering kiosks can be placed inside and outside the establishment to take the orders for any customers walking rather than driving
  • AI POS systems seamlessly integrate with other tech to track inventory and accept payments


Both in drive-thru and indoor ordering areas, restaurants can take advantage of the efficiency, convenience, and cost-effectiveness of this technology to transform the customer experience and create a fully automated drive-thru of the future.

Beyond driving higher revenue and less human friction, these AI drive-thrus have the added benefit of being socially distant options that minimize human interaction. Now more than ever in a post-pandemic world, conversational AI restaurants are needed to safeguard customer and employee health. Importantly, AI does not lead to a lack of personalized interaction – conversation AI messaging, for instance, is being employed via SMS or Facebook Messenger to easily generate customer feedback.

Conversational AI restaurants ensure employees never get tired and service is always friendly, professional, and accurate. There are undeniable issues with the fast-food industry, but there is no doubt that conversational AI restaurants will revolutionize the industry and set a new standard for speed and customer satisfaction.