White Castle 2024: Quick leap in QSR Voice AI expected

  • Quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain White Castle predicts a rapid advance in voice automation within the industry in 2024, specifically within drive-thru applications.
  • Consumer acceptance is still mixed, with a PYMNTS Intelligence report suggesting only 8% of consumers believe voice assistants are as reliable as humans, and 12% believe they never will be.
  • However, the same report shows that 11% of consumers already use voice technology for making restaurant reservations, and another study found 76% of restaurants use automation in at least three areas of operations.

White Castle’s Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations, Jamie Richardson, sees a bright future for voice automation in the restaurant industry, especially at the drive-thru. He believes advances in technology and consumer acceptance will lead to significant progress in the field particularly in 2024. Contributing to this optimism is the increasing need for more drive-thru efficiency and customer demand for such service channels.

Despite this, a PYMNTS Intelligence report: “How Consumers Want To Live In The Voice Economy,” presents a more divided consumer perception about voice AI. The findings show that only a small fraction, 8%, believe voice assistants are currently as smart and reliable as humans in assisting daily tasks. A further 16% believe that the technology will reach that level within the next two years, while 22% think it will take three to five years, 26% say over five years, and 12% believe voice AI will never be at par with human intelligence.

Richardson acknowledges the complexity of voice ordering, stating, “It turns out there’s hundreds, if not thousands [of ways to order a certain item], because how we speak and how we share what we’re asking for is as varied as we are as individuals.” Despite these challenges, he sees great potential in the successful implementation of voice AI technology in restaurants.

In support of this potential, the PYMNTS Intelligence study “Preparing for a Voice Commerce Future Report: Gen AI Raises the Bar on Consumer Expectations for Smart Voice Assistants,” based on a survey of more than 2,900 U.S. consumers, reveals that 11% use voice technology for making restaurant reservations. Furthermore, a PYMNTS and American Express collaborative study cited in the report “B2B and Digital Payments Tracker®: Inflation Puts Technology on the Menu for Restaurants,” revealed that 76% of restaurants are using automation in at least three areas of operations.

Richardson views voice automation technology as key to improving drive-thru service, stating, “Anything that removes barriers to the drive-thru is a win. Voice assistance can be a huge one for team members and for customers… those who are able to deploy pretty rapidly and have buy-in from their teams and acceptance from customers — that’s standard-setting and essential for long term success.”