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Always Growing Sales

Standing in professional basketball’s Mecca, New York’s Madison Square Garden, Steph Curry launched another one of his signature three-pointers. The ball found the bottom of the net, and just like that, Curry owned the league record for three-pointers over a career. 

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The three-pointer is one of the simplest upsells to understand. Rather than just accepting two points for a regular basket, players shoot from beyond the arc to get three-points for a basket.

Upsell attempts are on the rise. When Curry entered the league in 2009, each game saw an average of about 17 three-point attempts. Twelve seasons later, the “upsell” success Curry has achieved has transformed the game. This season there are an average of 29 three-point attempts taken per game, and during the game that saw Curry set the record, there were a whopping 82 three-point attempts. Clearly, the common two-point basket is being upsold, and players are cashing in three-points at a time. 

Human Beings vs. Hi Auto

We recently had the opportunity to compare Hi Auto’s conversational AI tool with living, breathing employees at a QSR drive-thru. As part of the comparison, the restaurant owner wanted to see how his employees performed against the machine in terms of upselling. 

Over the course of the experiment, the employees took 1088 orders, while Hi Auto’s AI tool handled a little over 4,000. Results of the experiment weighed heavily in Hi Auto’s favor. Employees attempted 52 upsells, converting just 9 successful sales. In contrast, Hi Auto attempted upsells 76% of the time, resulting in an overall average ticket increase of 10%. 

One customer of ours who deployed Hi Auto’s solution said

“We’ve had cashiers that get tired of being on the register and they get to the point where they stop upselling, but Hi Auto is always upselling.”

Hi Auto outperformed its human counterparts because it wasn’t afraid of rejection or getting tired, and was able to attempt more upsells.

In other words, Hi Auto was far more successful than human employees at upselling because it just kept on shooting. 

Photo credits: HiAuto

The Importance of the Upsell

Just about every marketer and restaurateur knows the importance of the upselling. Somewhere back in Marketing 101, a professor showed a hamburger on the front of the board and wrote that a fast-food chain earned 15¢ on every burger they sold. Then, they added a picture of French fries and a soft drink and showed that the profits on those secondary items increased the profit per sale to $1.29, or a 760% increase in profits. 

The numbers may have changed over time, but the upsell for QSRs is still as important as ever. Restaurants that successfully upsell high-profit items to existing customers at the point of purchase generate higher profits without significantly increasing their expenses. It doesn’t cost anything for an employee to ask the customer if they would like to add a secondary item to their order, and quite often, the customer says yes.

The benefits of upselling go beyond profit margin metrics. It is an effective tool for increasing customer loyalty. Your customers recognize the upsell attempt is actually a way of anticipating their needs and presents them with the options that they need to make an informed purchase decision. The loyalty inspired goes on to increase the lifetime value of your customer, as well as improve on the return on investment (ROI) on your marketing and advertising spend that attracted the customer to your drive-thru in the first place. 

A Big Upsell Jump At Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken

Hi Auto’s conversational AI drive-thru attendant was integrated into some Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken locations earlier this year. By manning the drive-thru at understaffed restaurants, the system relieves stress on employees and helps to improve the overall work environment.

That impact can’t be understated. The pressure at QSRs who are dealing with high employee turnover and not enough staffing to manage restaurants is immense. However, the automated drive-thru attendant contributes significantly more while taking orders. 

Hi Auto uses natural language understanding to anticipate customer needs and upsell products. When a customer orders an entrée, Hi Auto asks if they would like to make it a combo with a drink, or offers sides and desserts based on Lee’s upselling routines.

The system doesn’t promote an upsell on every order. When customers use phrases like “that’s all” or “that’s it,” it knows to close the order and move on to the next customer. 

The results have been eye-opening for Lee’s Famous. Before introducing the AI drive-thru attendant, employees were upselling about 4% of the time. Hi Auto, in contrast, offers an upsell on about 70% of all orders and succeeds 21% of the time. Overall, we can directly attribute an average drive-thru ticket sales increase of 2% because of the system’s simple, friendly recommendations.

Automated drive-thru in action

Take Your Shot

Today’s labor shortage is complex, and it’s unlikely to change anytime soon. The average QSR has three fewer employees per location than it had 4 years ago, and turnover for frontline employees is 169.9%. 

For more QSRs, that means undertrained cashiers are serving customers. The data shows that these employees are either uncomfortable recommending upsells or balancing between taking orders at the drive-thru, serving customers at the counter, and running transactions at the pickup window. 

Either way, they simply aren’t taking the upselling shots that franchise owners need to grow sales and improve the value of a customer. Drive-thru restaurants looking to improve sales while reducing pressure on employees should be looking at all automated options available. 


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