If you have ever had issues ordering in a drive-thru, you could be in luck. That’s because White Castle is expanding its artificial intelligence drive-thru experiment that started earlier this year. In a press release, the fast food chain announced that it has partnered with SoundHound AI to bring voice-recognition technology to 100 locations across the United States. These bots are expected to run 24/7.
“Our partnership with SoundHound has allowed us to be first movers in this space and we’re excited to do even more to satisfy cravers everywhere,” White Castle vice president Mike Guinan said in a statement. “Working together, we’ll be able to deliver the drive-thru experience of tomorrow today.”
What could make this particular deal interesting is that, according to the press release, the AI program sounds entirely self-sufficient. It explains that the SoundHound technology “is based on complete end-to-end AI, and is not a human-assisted system,” implying that current drive-thru attendants won’t be operating the software themselves. While that seems peculiar, White Castle and SoundHound’s initial beta apparently worked — according to the company, participating restaurants saw order completion rates of around 90%.
How this could affect current employees and customers
White Castle began experimenting with artificial intelligence back in 2020, that time with Mastercard as its testing partner. In the same year, it began experimenting with a robot named Flippy to handle fry cook duties. Needless to say, while the chain isn’t unfamiliar with experimenting with AI, this is poised to be its biggest experiment yet, as 100 locations, according to Restaurant Business Online, is nearly 30% of its current establishments.
However, this new venture still has some potential downsides. University of Notre Dame assistant professor Yong Suk Lee told CNN that such AI ventures are “a labor-cutting exercise,” especially in a climate where more fast food workers are unionizing. It is unclear if employees at White Castle locations that already have the technology have been directly affected by the experiment.
The question of whether it would better help consumers is also up in the air. Another study included in the White Castle and SoundHound press release claims that the AI drive-thru tech did improve customer satisfaction. However, that is in contrast to what The Wall Street Journal found in line — three out of 10 customers had asked for a human employee to take their orders during its study of a standard line. Videos of AI programs at other chains getting customers’ orders wrong have also gone viral on social media. It is currently unknown which White Castle locations will receive the AI upgrade and when they will be officially implemented.
Source : SlashGear