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Panera experiments with robots

Hear more in this installment of Tech Tracker, a video series with NRN’s tech expert, Joanna Fantozzi


Panera Bread became the latest restaurant brand to invest in drive-thru automation technology, with the announcement of the bakery-café chain’s partnership with OpenCity to test out AI voice ordering technology in two café locations in the Rochester, N.Y. area.

With the ongoing labor shortage, automation and AI technology solutions being deployed in multiple facets of the quick-service and fast-casual industry have become increasingly popular. Panera announced Monday that OpenCity’s proprietary voice AI ordering technology, known as “Tori” for short, will be tested in two stores in Greece, N.Y., and Webster, N.Y., with the intention of improving drive-thru speed and efficiency.

Tori was installed at both of these locations and will be able to take orders as normal, while Panera employees will be on-hand to assist customers as needed with the technology or troubleshoot with any issues. Customers then can pull up to the window as normal after ordering to pay and receive their order from an employee as usual.

This is not the first test of automation technology Panera has announced recently: the company also tested a coffee-brewing robot in partnership with Miso Robotics earlier this year.

If the test at both of these locations is successful, then it’s very likely that Panera will roll out automation in the drive-thru to other cafes throughout the system.

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