Local Checkers rolls out robot-powered drive-thru

Published: Jul. 10, 2022 at 11:49 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 11, 2022 at 10:57 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Over the past year, reports from the NPD Group, a food service analytics company, consumer trends showed that drive-thru ordering has increased more than 20 percent.

According to Checkers President and CEO Frances Allen, about 80 percent of the chain’s business comes through the drive-thru. And to handle the jump, the fast food chain is turning to the future.

“People might call it a robot, but she’s just a nice friendly cashier,” Checkers district manager Earl Bouknight said.

That cashier is an artificial intelligence system, or A.I. system, and it’s now taking your orders right at the Wrightsboro Road location.

Checkers partnered with Presto, a restaurant technology group, and Hi-Auto, which builds conversational systems to automate order taking. The A.I. system can take orders, ask and respond to order questions, while also selling the restaurants specials.

“It gives employees more time to do other duties while taking orders. Before employees were taking orders, making drinks, handing out food,” Bouknight said.

Now it takes one step out of the equation. The new-age cashier is hooked up to a point-of-sale system. Bouknight said it’s designed to maximize worker efficiency as open jobs continue to remain unfulfilled.

And though the new worker is taking the future by storm, it has also opened growth opportunities for the franchise in the present.

“You have a chance to hire more people to do more responsibilities. So often our function is just to get the orders and bring it up. We still need to help them in order to take the cash, make the food, and give it to them. It gives us more opportunity to hire more people,” Bouknight said.

And it’s mostly on point too.

“98 percent of the orders are correct, but every now and then, she has a mistake. But if the customer knows what they want to order, she’s got it right on the button.”

By the end of the year, the Wrightsboro Road location will be one of more than 250 locations to roll-out the A.I. powered system.

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