Those long-running jokes about mangled drive-thru orders at fast food joints may become a thing of the past if Clinc delivers on its promise. The startup is building AI-powered voice controls that allow hungry humans on the go to order food in a more conversational manner.
Clinc, which has spent the past two years creating AI voice controls for financial services companies, is looking to expand into the quick-service restaurant (QSR) sector to augment the voice control capabilities of drive-thru windows and in-store ordering kiosks.
According to Dennis Zender, Vice President of Sales, Innovation & Strategy at Clinc, unlike other voice-powered AI tools on the market right now, Clinc’s AI does not rely on a tree structure or need to map back to a dictionary for its responses. This allows Clinc to treat everything said to it as data, allowing its AI to handle more complex — and messier — conversations.
If you think about your typical chatbot experience, it’s very stilted and formulaic. You say something, wait for a response, say something else, next response, and so on. Clinc promises that its AI will allow you to carry on a much more complex set of instructions. As you can see in this demo video Clinc created, the customer gives a relatively complex drive-thru order, with multiple items and special requests. He even changes his order.
Having a robust AI system in the drive-thru actually fits with the high-tech renovations many fast food chains are implementing. Long John Silvers is adding HD screens and digital audio to their drive throughs, and Caliburger lets you pay with your face at an indoor kiosk (not to mention its robot cooking burgers).
Clinc’s complex conversations are also reminiscent of Google Duplex, which is an AI that can hold eerily human-like conversations. The goal for any QSR is efficiency and speed, and automation promises to do just that. Having a reliable chatbot system that can accurately take orders and “converse” with customers would free up humans to do higher-level work. Or… ya know… eliminate them altogether. (Eep.)
Right now, Clinc is in talks with a number of QSR companies, but hasn’t rolled out anything official yet. The company is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has roughly 100 employees and has $7.75 million in funding.
So say what you will about fast food; if Clinc clicks with chains, AI ordering is something we’ll all be chatting about.