YOUR NEXT RECRUIT COULD BE A ROBOT
Entrepreneur US|Startups - Summer 2024
Across the franchise industry, brands are putting AI to use in all kinds of novel ways. From customer service to better marketing and quality control, here's how brands are taking the leap into automation.
YIREN LU
YOUR NEXT RECRUIT COULD BE A ROBOT

Two women pull into a Carl's Jr. drive-thru in Anaheim, California, and roll down their window.

An employee introduces herself as Tori, and asks, "What can I get started for you?" The question is normal enough, but something about Tori sounds a little weird. The women in the car start giggling. Tori takes it all in stride.

She's not offended. She's a robot, after all. She collects their order flawlessly-asking about drinks and combo sizes-and even tries to upsell them on some strawberry shortcake. A human employee hands them their food, and as they drive off, the woman riding shotgun gasps. "Oh, my God! AI is coming! AI is at Carl's Jr.!" All of this played out on TikTok, where you can find a proliferating number of videos of AI taking orders at quick-service restaurants around the country. Franchises like Carl's Jr., McDonald's, Rally's, and Popeyes have all rolled out voice AI at select restaurants. And while these order-taking bots may be the most visible examples of how franchises are starting to use AI, they're just the beginning.

Artificial intelligence is already giving franchises myriad opportunities to improve efficiency and lower costs while increasing revenues-and its applications cannot be ignored. Whether you work for a QSR brand looking to save on staffing and improve operations, a retail brand wanting to boost localized marketing at a fraction of the cost of a traditional agency, a cookie company using predictive analytics to improve wait times and quality control, or a fitness studio developing a personalized coaching system, there are all kinds of novel ways you can put AI to work. And you should-because chances are, someone else in your industry is already doing it.

For drive-thru in particular, QSR brands' motivation to explore voice automation has been driven by three parallel trends: rising labor costs, a post-pandemic appreciation for the value of drive-thru options, and AI hype.

This story is from the Startups - Summer 2024 edition of Entrepreneur US.

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This story is from the Startups - Summer 2024 edition of Entrepreneur US.

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