Technology

Del Taco ends use of drive-thru voicebots

The 600-unit taco chain began testing the technology from Presto in 2022 and said last year that it was exceeding expectations.
Del Taco
Del Taco's drive-thrus will no longer be automated. | Photo courtesy of Del Taco

Del Taco is no longer using voicebots from Presto Automation to take orders in the drive-thru.

The 600-unit Mexican chain began testing the technology in 2022 and announced an expanded rollout early last year, saying the system was exceeding expectations. But by the second half of 2023, it had decided to stop using the voicebots, according to an SEC filing by Presto.

Del Taco had not responded to a request for comment as of publication time.

Presto’s “voice assistant” is designed to take drive-thru orders and upsell, helping restaurants lower their labor costs and boost sales. Though the voicebots use artificial intelligence, they still rely heavily on human agents to oversee most orders.

Presto said it has seen strong demand from restaurants looking to combat rising wages and labor shortages and had pointed to Del Taco as a big win. Other customers include Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s and Wienerschnitzel, which together have installed Presto at about 145 locations. It was unclear how many Del Taco’s had installed it, but Presto said losing the company would have no material impact its business.

Del Taco’s decision to stop using the technology raises questions about the viability of AI in the drive-thru. Many fast-food chains are testing the technology, including McDonald’s, White Castle and Wendy’s, but progress has been slow. It can be difficult to train the bots to understand different accents and ways of ordering, for instance, and not all consumers are happy about dealing with a robot instead of a human. 

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