Artificial intelligence – it seems as if the whole world has been focusing on AI due to ChatGPT’s enormous success. Within two months, OpenAI’s generative AI chatbot became the fastest-growing consumer application in history. This monumental popularity has caused an explosion of interest in AI, albeit AI is not as new as most might think. AI has been around since the 1960s but is just starting to catch fire with many professions and subclassifications. One of the most impactful industries where AI is taking hold: quick-service restaurants. 

Quick-service operators may have turned to AI for a patchwork solution during the labor shortage, but owners and operators are seeing that voice AI in particular is the future for unlocking record operational efficiencies and financial stability. In fact, 64% of business owners told Forbes that they believe that artificial intelligence will make a positive, long-term impact by increasing their business’ productivity. 

Many predictions, such as Deloitte’s “The Future of Restaurants” report, design quick-service restaurants with futuristic drive-thru lines powered by virtual ordering assistants. And while the ultramodern design might still be far in the future, AI is already powering aspects of the quick-service industry such as inventory management and drive-thru technology. AI is capable of taking guests’ orders via the drive-thru and sending the order straight to the POS system for team members to fulfill. According to the same Deloitte report, 81% of guests would choose to use an automated voice ordering system to place orders via drive-thru if given the option.

ConverseNow voice AI male and female virtual assistant

What is voice AI and how does it work?

Voice AI is a virtual ordering assistant that automates the order-taking process. Voice AI listens and interacts with guests in the same way as a team member would and inputs orders straight into the POS system. This technology accounts for every touchpoint across the take-out journey, filtering out background noise and allowing guests to change their minds.


Voice AI is far more robust than the original automated systems that have been cause for tremendous frustration — clunky prompts and voice recognition that can rarely understand you — comparatively speaking, voice AI is a breath of fresh air.


Here’s how voice AI works:

  • Automated speech recognition (ASR) and speech-to-text (STT) convert the guest’s speech into a format that’s readable by AI
  • Natural language processing (NLP) is used to understand the meaning of the text
  • Text to speech (TTS) then converts the message back to the guest in spoken form

Voice AI can respond to questions or order changes, engaging in limitless, simultaneous conversations. The process outlined above happens in milliseconds so that the digital voice assistant has a natural, free-flowing conversation.  Once a guest confirms the order, the voice AI automatically sends the order to the store’s POS system so team members can fulfill it like they would any other order.

Voice AI improving the drive-thru customer experience

Guests crave the drive-thru lanes when they’re in a hurry and want to get their food quickly. However, if the restaurant is short-staffed or they arrive during peak hours, the risk of wait times goes up. By using voice AI to take drive-thru orders, quick-service restaurants can put themselves in a position to shorten future wait times by moving labor from the drive-thru speaker to food production. This switch allows for faster order fulfillment since more hands are in the production line and results in cars moving through the drive-thru more quickly.

Virtual ordering assistants also eliminate order discrepancies. Voice AI has a clear and easy-to-understand voice that often meets or exceeds the accuracy of physical team members. In addition, voice AI is constantly learning with each conversation so that it can continue to delight guests. Customer satisfaction scores for ConverseNow’s voice AI are already exceeding QSR industry standards, proving that AI can enhance guest interactions, keeping consumers happy and coming back for more.

ConverseNow voice AI drive thru customer

Increasing staff productivity

According to Forbes, 64% of business owners believe that AI will improve productivity and streamline job processes. By adding voice AI to a quick-service restaurant’s drive-thru, operators are able to shift team members to higher-value activities such as order fulfillment and in-store guest service. This shift can account for up to a 2x increase in sales per labor hour since staff are not spending time taking orders, impatiently waiting for guests to finish talking. Instead, productivity increases with more hands involved in tasks that require a human touch. According to ConverseNow, franchisees have seen up to 125 hours of reallocated labor per store each month when implementing voice AI. 


Using voice AI for drive-thru order-taking can also result in higher team member retention and easier recruitment. Since staff no longer have to juggle order-taking with other tasks, they’re prone to less stress, greater job satisfaction and ultimately a stronger likelihood that they will stay in their job longer. With one less task to juggle, it also makes training and retention easier for managers. 

Boost store performance and the bottom line

By improving the guest experience and increasing staff productivity, voice AI inevitably boosts store performance by allowing for better service times and stronger peak-hour volume. In addition, voice AI strategically upsells each guest by offering a suggestion or two that complement the ordered items. Quick-service restaurants can also have voice AI upselling store-specific items or specials. 


Owners using voice AI report average ticket going up as much as 20%, and in some cases, as much as 30%. This is due to a combination of factors such as greater order capture and an automated, dynamic upsell with every drive-thru order.

Voice AI: a long-term drive-thru solution

AI is more than just a passing fad; it’s a long-term solution that’s reshaping drive-thru operations and overall store builds. Quick-service owners can take advantage of this powerful technology today by adding voice AI to their drive-thru operations. ConverseNow is the market leader in voice AI for restaurants, providing voice AI-powered virtual ordering assistants for leading restaurant brands to automate the order-taking process at the drive-thru. 

ConverseNow’s voice AI can help enhance the guest experience, strengthen staff productivity, reduce team member stress and burnout and increase order count and average ticket sales. Founded in 2018, ConverseNow operates in more than 2,000 stores across 46 states, processing millions of conversations each month and evolving every day. This best-in-class technology integrates seamlessly into a restaurant’s existing hardware and software, with no staff training required. 

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