AI Is Taking Over Drive Thru Restaurants, But New Information Shows it’s Not Working Alone

By: Lauren | Published: Dec 14, 2023

A popular tech company that provides AI software for drive thru restaurants has recently made a surprising announcement.

Preso Automations originally said that 95% of the order it receives are fulfilled completely by its AI programming, but now, they told the world that more than 70% of the orders require the assistance of human employees. 

Presto’s Exact Words

According to an SEC filing in November of 2023, “Currently, over 70% of orders taken by our Presto Voice solution require human agent intervention.”

Presto Automations logo in black and white


And the reason why this quote is so important and surprising is because previously. Presto claimed that 95% of its orders were completed without human intervention. 

What Does Presto’s AI Software Do?

In order to fully understand Presto’s announcement, it’s vital to know exactly what their software is meant to do.

Carl's Jr. fast food restaurant

Source: Dave Rowland/Getty Images

Essentially, fast-food chains such as Carl’s Jr., Del Taco, and Hardee’s have purchased and use Presto’s AI voice software at their drive-thru windows to make ordering fast, efficient, and less cost consuming. 

Presto’s New Information Doesn’t Change Things for the Restaurants

It’s also important to note that while this announcement that it’s software doesn’t yet work well enough to function without “humans-in-the-loop” as they call it, that doesn’t affect the price of the programming for restaurants. 

Fast-food worker handing bag through a window at a drive-thru

Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

But it does very much affect Presto’s internal business, specifically and most importantly, its profit margins.

Presto Is Struggling to Stay in Business

With 70% of the orders that come through Presto’s program requiring human assistance, Presto needs to have a full-time human staff available. 

People working at computers with headsets on

Source: Freepik

Which is, of course, seriously cutting into their profit margin as humans are quite expensive to employ. 

Most of Presto’s “Humans-in-the-Loop” Work Out of the Philippines

Presto Automations told the press that a large majority of their off-site workers are based in the Philippines. 

Illustration of the flag of the Philippines

Source: Freepik

However, while the labor costs there are certainly lower than they would be in the USA or most countries in Europe, wages are increasing across the globe, and Presto realizes they are going to have to make some changes soon if they want to stay in business. 


Presto Already Laid Off Many of its Human Workers

In fact, Presto Automations already laid off many of its workers that assist the voice software at drive-thru windows in order to save money. 

Woman who got fired from her job leaving the office

Source: Freepik

According to the SEC filing, they let about 17% of their global, full-time staff go this year. As well as attempting to significantly decrease monthly spending. 


Without Humans, Will Presto’s Software Even Work?

Now, here’s the big question: If currently, 70% of the drive-thru orders through Presto’s voice software require human assistance, will it even work without them?

Text box on a computer answering the question: “Tell me about ChatGPT"

Source: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Apparently yes; Presto has also recently announced that they are now in collaboration with OpenAI in order to use ChatGPT to improve its software to the point where no humans are required. 


Things Should Be Looking Up for Presto

With this new plan in place, including working hand in hand with OpenAI, cutting down on expenditures, and laying off 17% of their employees, it seems like Presto will be able to save itself from collapse and get back on track. 

Robot and human in suits shaking hands across a white background

Source: Freepik

In the SEC filing, they said, “As we continue to improve our AI accuracy and further deploy Presto Voice across store locations, we believe that the percentage of orders that do not require any human agent intervention will reach 30% or better.” 


AI Drive-Thrus Are Undoubtedly the Future

And the truth is that Presto does have a solid business model and certainly a product that is in high demand.

McDonald’s drive-thru lanes with menus

Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The future of drive-thru ordering is undoubtedly based in AI technology. Companies such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wingstop, and Popeyes, already use voice bots to take the vast majority of their orders. 


What’s Better: Humans or Chat Bots?

As with all AI services, there is an ongoing debate as to whether ordering from a person or a chat bot at the drive-thru offers a better experience. 

Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor speaks to the camera

Source: YouTube

CEO of Wendy’s, Todd Penegor, reported that he plans to keep human workers taking orders. Though his chief information officer told the press that the AI bot is “as good as our best customer service representative, and it’s probably on average better.” 


Fast Food Restaurants Will Still Need Employees, but Presto Might Not

While many people worry that AI technology will replace human employees across the world in the near future, luckily, it seems that for now, fast-food workers are safe. Restaurants will always need real people on hand to make and serve the food. 

Employees at McDonald’’s, smiling behind the counter

Source: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

However, in regard to ordering through the drive-thru, it seems the world is going AI instead. And companies such as Presto will be investing their money in software instead of people to stay in the game.