Checkers Picks Valyant AI for Franchisee Drive-Thru Voice Assistants
Restaurant voice assistant developer Valyant AI has inked a deal to install its conversational AI system at Checkers & Rally’s franchisee-owned drive-thrus. The agreement for the independently operated restaurants comes only six weeks after the restaurant chain unveiled plans for hospitality AI firm Presto to embed a drive-thru voice assistant at 267 corporate-owned locations.
Valyant’s arrangement with Checkers adds the startup’s voice AI platform, called Holly, to the library of features that Checkers & Rally’s franchise owners can incorporate into their business. A dozen franchisees have already installed the Holly platform in a successful pilot program leading to the new arrangement, which applies to franchisees across the country. Customers pulling up to a drive-thru will be able to converse with ‘Holly’ and place their order. The voice assistant acts like a more efficient human cashier, including the ability to upsell customers and make recommendations appropriate to the time and what the customer already requested. Valyant’s deep neural network is trained on customer recordings and improves with continued use. Though the Checkers deal is specifically for drive-thrus, the platform includes phone and mobile app options. The Colorado-based Valyant started out incorporating its voice AI into Denver’s Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard in 2019. Since then, the startup raised $4.5 million and began scaling its operation to new restaurants.
“In the face of a plethora of new customer expectations, restaurant owners and franchisees need a new way to boost sales and delight customers while providing a safe, contactless customer experience that frees employees to spend more time focused on customers,” Valyant AI CEO Rob Carpenter said. “That’s where our customer-facing conversational AI platform comes in. We are tremendously proud that Checkers and Rally’s recognize the value our innovative solution brings and look forward to continuing to work with their franchisees throughout the U.S. to scale our unique platform and harness the power of AI to transform how restaurants operate.”
Restaurant voice AI is becoming mainstream at an accelerating clip. Wendy’s started to move toward voice tech a few months ago by partnering with Google Cloud as its tech provider for creating a voice assistant. The biggest recent news naturally dealt with McDonald’s, which sold McD Tech Labs to IBM and began a collaboration to develop an automated drive-thru service. The restaurant chain had formed McD Tech Labs in 2019 after acquiring voice tech startup Apprente and bringing its AI research in-house. Checkers and Rally’s decision to pursue voice AI fits right into the trend.
“As a company that embraces technology, we felt it was important to provide franchisees with options to determine the best fit for their own AI needs while also providing the tools necessary to deliver a better experience for both team members and guests,” Checkers & Rally’s chief information officer Minh Le said. “We’re excited to partner with Valyant AI, a pioneer in the industry, and are confident that franchisees will leverage the company’s innovative solutions as they look to further invest and grow with our company.”
There’s an additional legal wrinkle to Checkers’ decision to offer Valyant to franchisees while installing Presto’s AI in corporate locations, however. Presto built its platform with conversational AI developer Hi Auto, who produced the voice assistant for Ohio chicken restaurant chain Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken Restaurant. Hi Auto is also facing patent infringement accusations by Valyant in a lawsuit. Valyant filed the lawsuit citing unauthorized use of its conversational AI patents in December against both Hi Auto and fellow restaurant voice AI startup Kea.
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