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AiThority Interview with Raj Suri, Founder at Presto Automation

Raj Suri, Founder at Presto Automation

Please tell us a little bit about your role and responsibilities at Presto Automation. How did you arrive at the company?

I’m Rajat Suri, founder of Presto Automation Inc. Back in college, I realized how poor the restaurant order and payment process was. I saw an incredible opportunity to change the face of an age-old industry with innovative automation technology solutions.

I left the doctoral program at MIT and spent a year as a restaurant server, dedicating 16 hours a day to waiting tables and learning how it all works. Ten years later, Presto continues to be driven by its original DNA as it brings the most innovative and secure AI automation technologies to the restaurant industry.

What is Presto? What are your core offerings?

Presto Automation Inc. overlays next-gen digital solutions onto the physical world. Presto’s enterprise-grade voice, vision, and touch technologies help hospitality businesses thrive while delighting guests. With over 300 million transactions processed, Presto is one of the largest labor automation technology providers in the restaurant industry. Customers include many of the top 20 restaurant chains in the U.S., and we offer the most widely adopted AI-powered drive-thru voice assistant. Our solution has the richest feature set, is easy to install at scale, offers 24/7 availability, and delivers proven ROI.

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How big is your data science and AI development team at Presto?

Pesto’s highly talented AI development team comprises 15-20 data scientists, machine learning engineers, and AI software developers who are some of the best minds in Voice AI. They bring incredible industry-leading experience, having received awards for their achievements in automotive industry AI and leading the first-ever fully AI-automated drive-thru solution.

Conversational AI technologies are evolving with superior open source capabilities and computing. Could you please highlight some of the key trends in the AI industry that have emerged in the last 2-3 years?

By now, we’ve all realized how fast AI technology is advancing on so many levels. The team at Presto has been following the development of some key trends, such as the emergence of large generalized models that can outperform smaller specialized models on many tasks. We’ve also seen the increased acceptance of the utility of AI beyond computer-science and the interest in using AI for order quality monitoring, customer sentiment detection, and labor prediction.

Tell us how you use ChatGPT3 for your drive-thru AI platform?

Presto currently uses the GPT3 API rather than ChatGPT in our drive-thru AI platform.
We cannot share the specifics.

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Which industries use Presto Voice? What are its unique features?

Presto Voice is the AI technology that powers drive-thru automation at restaurants, and we are proud that three of every four drive-thru AI voice assistants in the US are Presto. It’s a reliable 24/7 virtual assistant with a consistently friendly and helpful demeanor. It never calls in sick and never gets bored of mundane tasks. Meanwhile, guests get a better experience and are never asked to wait. They’re spoken to in a clear voice that’s easy to understand, and their orders are delivered faster with fewer mistakes. Over 95% of orders are processed without human intervention, alleviating staff from multitasking so they can focus on critical tasks – improving employee satisfaction and retention. The conversational AI engine in Presto Voice makes 4x more context-specific upsell attempts resulting in, on average, 30% higher check sizes. Everyone wins with this solution. We see Presto Voice as the future of the drive-thru, and it’s coming to one near you.

How do you plan to scale its capabilities and reach more customers from diverse landscapes, such as healthcare and finance?

Although Presto is focused on QSR restaurants, our next-gen Flex tablet can utilize our AI voice technology to improve the patient experience in hospitals. One of the advantages of large language models is the ability to understand multiple languages with a single model, especially if the two languages are interleaved. This ability is known as code-switching, or less technically: Spanglish. An AI model needs to have this ability to ensure the system can handle customers of diverse backgrounds.

What are the inherent benefits of using generative AI for conversational machine learning modeling?

As for conversational machine learning modeling, generative AI becomes beneficial as it can be used to create synthetic conversations to increase training data and ensure coverage of under-represented scenarios.

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What advice would you offer to CIOs and CISOs looking to buy into conversational AI with ChatGPT3 capabilities?

ChatGPT and GPT3 results can often be counterintuitive. Testing a wide variety of use cases to see what performs well is often the best way to go. It is often very difficult to predict a priori what will work and what won’t.

Thank you, Raj ! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

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Raj Suri founded Presto in 2008 while pursuing his doctorate at MIT. He has also cofounded Zimride (now Lyft), the popular ride-sharing company. He holds a bachelors from the University of Waterloo and also attended a Ph.D. / MBA program at MIT.

While attending university Raj served on the Board of Directors of FedS, the corporation representing the interests of the students of the University of Waterloo. Earlier, he was the Founder and President of the Forum for Independent Thought, Canada’s first student think tank.

Presto Logo

Presto overlays next-gen digital solutions onto the physical world. Presto’s enterprise-grade voice, vision, and touch technologies help hospitality businesses thrive while delighting guests. With over 300 million transactions processed, Presto is one of the largest labor automation technology providers in the industry. Founded at M.I.T. in 2008, Presto is headquartered in Silicon Valley, Calif. with customers including many of the top 20 restaurant chains in the U.S.

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