UPDATE: Sept. 1, 2020: This article has been updated to include the location of the White Castle tests.
- In October, Mastercard will test several artificial intelligence-based technologies inside a Dunkin' restaurant and several White Castle locations, according to a press release.
- The credit card company will test its Shop Anywhere platform, which is supported by AI and computer vision technology company Accel Robotics. At the Dunkin location where this will be tested, for example, the location will set up an automated store that can be open 24/7, allowing customers to access its products outside of normal business hours.
- The company’s AI Powered Drive Through platform will enable QSRs to incorporate vehicle recognition and voice ordering. This platform, which will be tested at some White Castle locations, will allow customers to receive personalized menus based on trends at the store or previous customer behavior and is expected to improve the ordering process. Rekor Systems is providing the vehicle recognition technology part of the platform, while SoundHound will provide the AI voice recognition component. The test will be performed in the Chicago and St. Louis areas, according to Rekor Systems.
While artificial intelligence had been slowly making its way into the QSR space over the last 18 months, the pandemic has increased the demand for contactless ordering and payment methods. Many QSRs have adopted curbside pickup, contactless drive-thrus and mobile payment options to reduce interactions between customers and employees. AI is the next step in creating a contactless economy and can help reduce labor costs and improve order accuracy and speed of service.
Mastercard’s latest platform builds on an AI-powered voice assistant and personal menu tested at Sonic Drive-In in 2019, but it wasn't the only company to dip its toes into the technology. Last year, McDonald's bought Dynamic Yield and has since deployed the AI to offer personalized drive-thru menus in the U.S., while Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard has been using Valyant AI's conversational system to process drive-thru orders.
One of the components of Mastercard's AI Powered Drive Through platform is customer identification, which can be done by recognizing the license plate, color, make and model of a guest's car. The customer initially registers with the restaurant and puts their credit card on file.
Instead of a customer going up to the drive-thru menu to let staff know they have arrived to pick up an order, the technology will automatically signal to staff that a customer is there, Robert Berman, CEO of Rekor Systems, said. With drive-thrus that have multiple lanes, it could also be used to establish a fast track lane so customers could bypass the traditional drive-thru altogether, Berman said.
Taco Bell, for example, is planning to do this with newly developed Go Mobile locations set to open in Q1 2021. These new restaurants will allow customers to go through a priority lane to pick up their pre-ordered meals.
Vehicle recognition technology could also allow customers to receive personalized menu recommendations if a smart menu board is in use that recognizes a diner based on their vehicle, Berman said.
"It can save a considerable amount of time because 20 seconds here, 20 seconds there, at the end of the day it’s a lot of seconds and … it just makes it more efficient," Berman said.
While Rekor has been developing AI products to the QSR and retail industry since 2018, its partnership with Mastercard will allow it to more easily sell its products, which means more AI technology is likely to show up at the drive-thru going forward. Mastercard has also said it expects to add the platform to more QSRs by the end of the year.