Del Taco to add AI voice bots in drive-thrus

The 600-unit Mexican chain said the technology from Presto has exceeded expectations. It’s another step forward for restaurant automation.
Del Taco
Del Taco began testing Presto Voice last year. / Photo courtesy of Del Taco

Robots are coming to the Del Taco drive-thru.

The 600-unit Mexican chain plans to use AI voice bots from Presto to take drive-thru orders. It’s been testing the technology since last year and said it has exceeded expectations.

“With Del Taco’s desire to build a drive-thru that improves operational efficiency while delivering an elevated guest experience, the Presto A.I.-based voice assistant solution is a natural choice,” said Kevin Pope, Del Taco’s VP operations innovation, in a statement. 

Presto Voice greets customers and takes their order. It can also automatically upsell. The idea is to lower labor costs, improve accuracy and increase sales by asking questions like “Would you like an ice-cold drink with that?” 

The industry’s recent struggles with hiring and retention have cleared the way for this sort of technology. Del Taco franchisees urged the company to adopt it after seeing the benefits in action, Presto CEO Rajat Suri said Tuesday during the ICR investor conference. Employees have also welcomed the voice bot, saying it made their jobs easier and that they missed it when it was gone.

“It’s helped a lot,” a Del Taco employee said in a video. “She’s able to take orders while I bag orders and hand them out.” 

The bot was able to complete more than 95% of orders without human intervention. 

Lake Forest, Calif.-based Del Taco is the second major brand to sign up for Presto Voice. The 800-unit Checkers & Rally’s chain began rolling it out to drive-thrus about a year ago. 

“It shows automation’s here to stay and there’s increasing demand for these types of products out there,” Suri said. 

He estimated that fewer than 1,000 of the nation’s 200,000 drive-thrus are automated today, with Presto accounting for 3 out of every 4 of them. But based on the interest his company has seen, “within two years, tens of thousands of drive-thrus will have this.” 

Restaurants using Presto Voice have seen a 6% sales increase on average due to the automatic upsell function, according to the company. They’re also able to save five to 10 labor hours daily by either redeploying staff or using fewer workers. 

Last month, the company unveiled a new feature that allows restaurants to program the bot with different voices, including celebrities and Santa Claus. 

“AI doesn’t need to be robotic,” Suri said. “It can be really, really fun.”

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