Lee’s Famous Recipe using artificial intelligence at drive-thru to combat pandemic induced issues

Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken restaurants in Clark County donated over $15,000 to the Springfield Salvation Army. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken restaurants in Clark County donated over $15,000 to the Springfield Salvation Army. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Englewood location uses conversational technology to limit contact, decrease wait times.

Lee’s Famous Recipe has incorporated artificial intelligence at the drive-thru to combat pandemic induced issues facing the fast-food industry.

The restaurant’s Englewood location has partnered with tech company, Hi Auto, to use conversational artificial intelligence, basically their version of Siri, to take and place orders at the drive-thru. The pandemic has presented staffing issues and increased the number of customers in the drive-thru for many restaurants and Lee’s isn’t excluded.

The technology is said to increase the speed of service and shorten wait times in the drive-thru.

Franchise CEO Chuck Doran said the technology will alleviate some of the issues caused by the pandemic.

“Sometimes customers have to wait while the workers finish with another customer. We can service every customer as soon as they pull into the drive-thru, take the order and get it in and maybe avoid some of those unnecessary delays that we run into and improve the overall service experience,” he said.

“Our technology is conversational AI. It’s basically composed of speech recognition technology that we have that is able to take the audio of your speech in a very noisy environment,” said Hi Auto Chief Technical Officer Eyal Shapira.

The company specializes in voice recognition software used in cars and smartphones but has now moved their technology to the drive-thru with conversational artificial intelligence. The technology is able to extract your voice from traffic or other people talking in the car that could otherwise make it difficult to understand what a customer is ordering. The second half of the technology is understanding natural language and is able to get the meaning of what customers want exactly.

Doran said the Englewood location has been significantly impacted by the staffing hardships and would be a good location to adequately test the technology.

“It’s become increasingly difficult to have people want to work in restaurants for a variety of reasons. The obvious one is the pandemic and potential exposure and having to wear a face mask for eight to nine hours a day is another concern for a lot of people,” he said.

With people still using caution when outside more people have opted for drive-thru restaurants to limit their interaction with people inside of businesses which can increase the wait time for customers. “Number one expectation of customers when they enter a drive-thru is speed of service. So I viewed this as an opportunity to potentially address that issue,” Doran said.

Implementing the technology won’t cut hours or payroll for the location and if the employees and customers respond well to the technology Doran said they have plans to use it at at least four more locations.

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