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Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken to clone voices with AI for drive-thru

AI concept
Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken is using AI at the drive-thru.

A quick-serve chicken chain will personalize the drive-thru experience with help from artificial intelligence (AI) – and the voice of a local football legend.

Ohio-based Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, which operates more than 130 locations in 12 U.S. states and in Canada, will implement an AI-based voice cloning solution in an effort to incorporate fully customized voice options into its drive-thru voice AI ordering technology.

The Hi Auto AI voice cloning technology records and captures all the nuances of a particular person’s voice, including tone, accent and dialect. With a few minutes of original recorded speech, Lee’s Famous can leverage the Hi Auto solution to create a digital voice indistinguishable from the original speaker and seamlessly incorporate it into a store’s order-taking system.

The chain plans to launch the new voice cloning feature as a test in select Ohio drive-thru locations. Customers who visit the retailer's Ohio locations will be greeted with the voice of sports broadcaster and former NFL player Keith Byars, who grew up in Ohio and went on to play football at Ohio State and then in the National Football League for 13 seasons.

"Three years ago, Lee's embarked on a pioneering journey with Hi Auto, leveraging their cutting-edge artificial intelligence for our drive-thru orders, marking a milestone in operational efficiency and customer service," said Ryan Weaver, CEO of Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken. "This collaboration not only enhanced our labor efficiency by saving approximately five to six hours daily, but also significantly improved order consistency and upselling conversions."

“Hi Auto’s AI voice cloning aims to humanize the customer drive-through experience, by giving automated attendants a ‘real’ voice,” said Hi Auto CEO and Co-Founder Roy Baharav. “For restaurants, having their own unique voice is essential in creating a memorable personal experience, and genuinely enhancing brand identity. We are rolling out the ability to clone voices at the national level as well as the local level, allowing franchisees to tailor the voice to their business needs. Just like with accuracy and speed, we are doing it at full scale at hundreds of stores.”

Retailers automate drive-thru with AI voice solutions

Lee's Famous is taking a new step by utilizing voice cloning technology in its drive-thru operation, but a number of fast food retailers have integrated AI-based voice technology into the drive-thru. 

For example, Wendy's is piloting Google Cloud AI technology in a Columbus, Ohio-area, company-operated restaurant. The pilot will utilize Google Cloud generative AI solutions, such as Vertex AI, to automatically conduct conversations with customers, understand made-to-order requests and generate responses to frequently asked questions. 

In addition, Del Taco Restaurants Inc. is running the AI-based Presto Voice solution on a 24/7 basis at select store locations. And Panera Bread began testing AI technology from OpenCity in drive-thru lanes at select stores in the greater Rochester, N.Y. area in August 2022.

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