The Booming AI Sector
Artificial intelligence attracted immense hype in 2023 owing to ChatGPT’s popularity. AI’s potential benefits and risks gain more public attention. Early this year, excitement surrounding the technology lifted Presto Automation Inc.’s (NASDAQ:PRST) stock. However, disappointing quarters amid weak markets for small tech firms caused its shares to plunge nearly 90% in five months.
Leveraging AI to Enhance Drive-Thrus
For over ten years, Presto has served restaurants via its Presto Touch platform – an all-in-one system for ordering, payment, customer engagement and more. Yet Presto’s promising investment prospects lie in its new Voice AI drive-thru solution. We can see Presto Touch as the base that enabled the company to understand the restaurant sector, including challenges around integration and franchising dynamics. This knowledge positions Presto to excel over generic AI developers in meeting industry needs.
Widespread Benefits of Restaurant AI
While AI brings some societal concerns, automating drive-thrus appears simply constructive. Fast food employment typically offers low-paying, unskilled work performed by inexperienced staff with minimal motivation. Drive-thru duties seem among the worst, requiring constantly handling screaming orders for hours. AI drive-thrus can cut errors and lift morale. Though AI often replaces workers to reduce costs, Presto Voice’s unique benefit is boosting revenue via superior upselling skills than tired, demoralized employees.
Initial drive-thru AI tests confirm this potential. Estimated per-location cost savings of $35,000 accompany a 6% average increase in revenue thanks to AI’s better upselling than minimum wage workers. Major fast food chains currently pilot various drive-thru AI solutions, either proprietary systems or third-party options like Presto. While internal platforms reach 80% order accuracy, Presto touts 95% accuracy. However, presently only 30% of orders occur fully autonomously, with the rest needing human intervention to train models and maintain accuracy.
Overcoming Immediate Challenges
I remain bullish on PRST partly due to founder and Chairman Krishna Gupta’s open, helpful communication with investors to educate about the business. However, PRST’s setbacks are real and require solutions.
Q1 2023 results sparked a 30% sell-off. Revenue dropped year-over-year to $4.9 million, aligned with guidance but down from $7.8 million. Gross margin barely registered at $203,000. Despite an accounting profit, operating loss hit $13.2 million. Disappointingly, Q2 guidance echoes Q1 at $4.8-5 million.
Unlocking AI’s Immense Potential
PRST’s difficulties reflect AI implementation’s inherent growing pains. Mastering the technology and spreading adoption have transitional costs. But I see PRST at a trough point for both stock price and performance, making now an opportune investment time. Once AI drive-thrus’ vast prospects materialize, PRST’s future looks bright.