White Castle to Test AI Powered Drive-Thru

US burger chain, White Castle has announced its move to trial new frictionless technologies. The quick-service chain plans to test a drive-thru system featuring license plate recognition and a digital voice assistant powered by artificial intelligence.

This drive-thru lane of the future, introduced by Mastercard, will debut next month in up to three White Castle restaurants. The ‘AI Powered Drive Thru’ builds upon technologies Mastercard first piloted last year with Sonic Drive-in. 

For White Castle, the iconic chain is looking at adding more automated technologies to its stores. Earlier this year, White Castle and Miso Robotics announced plans to test Flippy, a robotic fry cook.

"As a nearly 100-year-old family business guided by having a heart for hospitality, bringing technological empowerment to the drive thru is the next chapter in innovation for our industry,” Susan Carroll-Boser, vice president of technology at White Castle, said in a statement. 

“We're honoured to partner with Mastercard on this important initiative, and eager for our customers to enjoy the benefits it will provide.”

Stephane Wyper, senior vice president of retail innovation at Mastercard, said the drive thru test with White Castle will bring frictionless experiences to customers through automated location-based upselling and contactless payment. That technology is similar to what McDonald’s has been testing since last year with Dynamic Yield.

Mastercard’s system, developed in partnership with SoundHound Inc. and Rekor Systemscan create personalised experiences by leveraging White Castle’s loyalty platform. Consumers who opt in on the app can enter their license plate so they can be identified upon entry into the drive through. 

Working with Rekor’s AI-powered vehicle recognition device, Mastercard said the drive-thru menu board will be updated to display more relevant items based on that guest’s past buying habits. Ordering is automated with the consumer talking to a digital voice assistant, or bot, developed by SoundHound.

With more consumers looking for contactless payment options during the pandemic, this experience also features frictionless payment. Most brand loyalty apps give consumers the ability to register a credit card to process payments for mobile orders.  At White Castle's pilot drive thru lanes, loyalty members don’t need to pull out a payment card to complete the transaction.

White Castle's move to offer high-tech solutions at the drive-thru come as other chains have tested modernizing their car lanes using automation. Last year, Chicago-based McDonald's purchased Dynamic Yield after testing its AI-powered menu boards, which have the ability to automate upselling based on a customer’s current selections or suggest popular items using location-based data for that restaurant. 

According to a new survey from Oracle Food and Beverage, consumers are seeking contactless technology to feel comfortable when returning to dining out. This points to the idea of AI technology becoming a standard part of our New Normal.