AI technology has been in the testing phase at fast food restaurants since 2018 and is now becoming more widely used. While human employees struggle to upsell, AI-powered voice bots are programmed to do so and repeat questions like “Would you like fries with that?” with every order. For restaurant operators, the increased profits from upselling and faster service times at the drive-thru seem to minimize the mistakes made on orders, mistakes so laughable they’re now viral on TikTok.
14 chains currently use artificial intelligence voice technology to take orders at the drive-thru and over the phone to save on labor and improve service. AI is also used in chat bots on websites and apps, and behind the scenes tracking consumer trends, dropping fries, and even flipping burgers. Some analysts believe that “AI voice recognition and digital only lanes could speed up the average drive through service time by at least 20-30%”, a positive for customers but what about the effect on employees?
Yong Suk Lee, assistant professor of technology, economy, and global affairs at the University of Notre Dame, who focuses on AI’s impact on labor, feels the adoption of new technology could mean fewer jobs or part-time work for employees. How many fewer jobs remains to be seen but the predictions are astronomical. In 2022, global restaurant consultancy firm Aaron Allen and Associates published a report mentioning the various uses of AI in the foodservice industry and estimated that as much as 82% of restaurant jobs could be performed by robots. Recently Valyant AI founder, Rob Carpenter, told Fox News that within 5 to 10 years millions of fast food workers could lose their jobs to AI adding, “this is definitely a watershed moment for artificial intelligence”.
Someone from the outside looking in would think the potential global unemployment caused by the implementation of new technology could have a cascading effect on the economy world-wide. But according to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant operators have no choice but move forward with more AI at more locations stating they don’t have enough workers to meet demands.