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Panera is testing AI voice ordering at two restaurants, the latest in a growing number of brands innovating the drive-thru channel. Panera is partnering with OpenCity's proprietary AI assistant, named "Tori." Customers pull up to the drive-thru, place their order with Tori, and pay at the window.
“At Panera, improving our guest experience is always our priority and we are using this innovative technology to help enable a faster, more accurate order for each of our drive-thru guests,” Debbie Roberts, executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “The potential of AI drive-thru technology is incredibly exciting for us—we are eager to evaluate the performance of these tests and the possibility of expanding this technology in additional bakery-cafes.”
At the start of COVID, customers swarmed the drive-thru, and the ordering channel is still benefiting from tailwinds. From February 2020 to 2022, drive-thru orders grew 20 percent, according to The NPD Group. Panera is ahead of the curve compared to its fast-casual peers, with 45 percent of its more 2,000 units having a drive-thru.
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