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The next time you swing by a Sonic Drive-In, you might be greeted by an AI assistant. Mastercard today announced a partnership with Zivelo, a provider of self-service kiosks, to deploy what it describes as an “ordering experience” for quick service restaurants featuring a bespoke voice assistant, Zivelo’s OakOS software, and a personalized dynamic menu.
Sonic will test it at select U.S. locations later this year.
“We see facets of our brand, our restaurants, and AI technology converging in a way that makes for a special customer experience. Sonic is known for a fun environment and a full menu with extensive customization options that allows guests to personalize every meal,” said Sonic vice president of integrated customer engagement Jon Dorch. “Voice AI promises to provide carefree conversational ordering that complements the overall experience. We anticipate AI integration will also provide opportunities to streamline repeat orders, personalize suggestions based on data, and offer rewards that are truly relevant.”
So how’s it work, exactly? Well, as customers walk up to a kiosk, they’ll be prompted to order using a Siri-like voice assistant that’ll integrate with the menu display. Said menu display will automatically update using an algorithm developed by Mastercard’s Labs division, which will enable it to tailor its layout and recommendations either to individual people or for “external factors” like weather, time of day, seasonality, and location.
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Sonic is merely the first of many partners to come, from the sounds of it — additional unnamed restaurant chains will pilot the tech later this year. Mastercard notes that its off-the-shelf AI engine can be quickly adapted to new menus, and Zivelo — which claims to have installed tens of thousands of kiosks in restaurants to date — says it’s committed to supporting the needs of other merchant partners.
“Drive-thru accounts for 70% of QSR transactions, yet the experience has remained more or less untouched by innovation,” said Zivelo CEO Healey Cypher. “As customer expectation continues to move towards faster, personalized, and contextual experiences, we are excited to partner with Mastercard to bring this transformative solution to market and hopefully exceed those expectations.”
AI-driven restaurant menus are becoming a thing, and it’s no wonder why. Revenue Analytics, a company that offers a comparable AI pricing platform, claims that dynamic pricing can result in a 4.7% revenue uplift in sectors like hospitality.
Earlier this year, McDonald’s reportedly spent over $300 million to acquire Dynamic Yield, which works with brands across ecommerce, travel, finance, and media to create algorithmically personalized online experiences. McDonald’s said it would use the firm’s tech to create drive-thru menu displays that could change in response to things like the weather, restaurant traffic, and popular menu items and recommend additional items based on what customers have already ordered.
Meanwhile, Starbucks recently launched a program that creates recommendations based off of customers’ previous orders, in addition to factors like weather and ongoing promotions. (For example, when someone buys a Starbucks product online through the mobile app, the app suggests related products.) According to some analysts, it’s been the largest contributor to the company’s U.S. growth in the past few quarters.
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