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Is AI Really Automating Drive-Thrus? The Truth Behind the Scenes

Summary

In a recent report, it has come to light that the majority of orders at Presto Automation, a company specializing in drive-thru automation systems, are actually being handled by human workers. Despite boasting about their technology for automated orders and […]

Is AI Really Automating Drive-Thrus? The Truth Behind the Scenes

In a recent report, it has come to light that the majority of orders at Presto Automation, a company specializing in drive-thru automation systems, are actually being handled by human workers. Despite boasting about their technology for automated orders and counting clients such as Checkers and Del Taco restaurant chains, new data reveals a different reality.

Presto Automation is described as one of the leading providers of automation technology in the industry, claiming to increase sales and “save” human working hours. However, a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has disclosed that human workers are responsible for over 70% of orders at other locations.

While the branding and marketing of the company suggest the existence of magical drive-in technology, Presto Automation is actually utilizing remote workers, particularly in the Philippines, according to Bloomberg data. AI drive-thru technology is employed in fast-food restaurants such as Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Del Taco, and Checkers nationwide, with the aim of reducing labor costs and increasing chain revenues. The Presto Voice product was supposed to use AI to take customer orders through the drive-thru system. However, Bloomberg reports that the SEC notified Presto Automation earlier this year that they are under investigation “regarding certain aspects of their AI technology.” Presto Automation has not yet responded to the request for comment.

There seems to be a growing trend of AI “solutions” that actually involve the engagement of external contractors from countries with lower labor costs, often hidden by AI companies. For instance, an e-commerce app called Nate, widely used by influencers and content creators, claimed to use AI for automatically populating user data during sign-up. However, it was discovered that the company actually hired workers in the Philippines to manually handle the majority of orders. Other startup companies have presented human labor as “AI” in a similar fashion. In a previous Bloomberg report that tested the technology at a Del Taco restaurant, the restaurant chain’s CEO stated that Presto had reduced the kitchen team responsible for orders by around 70%. Fascinating!

The restaurant industry’s experimentation with AI technology has raised concerns about the possibility of replacing employees with their robotic counterparts. However, in this case, the substitution of human labor is not AI-related at all – companies simply require low-cost labor from elsewhere that they can hire.

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