White Castle is expanding its use of drive-thru AI

The company plans to add the artificial intelligence technology from SoundHound to 100 locations by the end of next year.
White Castle drive-thru
White Castle is expanding its use of drive-thru AI to 100 locations. | Photo: Shutterstock.

A robot may very well take your next Slider order.

White Castle on Wednesday said it plans to expand its use of drive-thru artificial intelligence to 100 locations by the end of next year, using technology from the AI company SoundHound. The expansion would put the technology into nearly 30% of the chain’s 350 locations.

The AI drive-thru could be particularly helpful for a chain like White Castle, whose locations are open 24 hours a day. Finding staff during overnight shifts can be particularly difficult.

The technology is not a human-assisted system, relying entirely on automation. SoundHound argues that its initial tests at White Castle had a 90% order completion rate, which it says was better than the chain’s previous staff-based benchmarks.

Orders are taken and processed in just over 60 seconds. And the program is always on. The partnership “has allowed us to be first movers in this space,” Mike Guinan, VP of operations services for White Castle, said in a statement.

AI drive-thrus have become increasingly popular among fast-food chains over the past year as the technology has advanced and become more widespread—and the chains themselves encountered a labor shortage that made it difficult to staff restaurants.

At the same time, there are questions about accuracy. And customers have expressed some skepticism about the use of machines to do tasks inside the restaurants once reserved for humans. SoundHound, however, argues that its own study found about 60% of customers are comfortable using automated voice assistants in the drive-thru.

That study also found that 57% of customers found long lines at the drive-thru to be their biggest pain point. “We know that AI is going to be a keystone of the restaurant of the future,” Keyvan Mohajer, CEO of SoundHound, said in a statement.

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