Wendy's Partnered With Google To Optimize Its AI Drive-Thru

Wendy's aims to revolutionize the drive-thru restaurant experience by implementing AI technology to take orders. While that may seem like a recipe for order mistakes, according to a press release put out by the company, Wendy's worked with Google Cloud to create Wendy's FreshAI in the hopes of streamlining how customers get their Baconator Combo and Strawberry Frosty.

The restaurant chain acknowledges that getting orders correct in the drive-thru can be challenging, thanks to customers' special requests, different order combinations, and background noise. However, that's where the company's work with Google proved most helpful. "It will be very conversational," Wendy's Chief Executive Todd Penegor told The Wall Street Journal about the AI-powered workers. "You won't know you're talking to anybody but an employee."

Wendy's FreshAI will use Google's large language model that includes words, phrases, and expressions in a variety of dialects and accents so that the system can better interpret what people are ordering, as well as Wendy's-specific words such as "biggie bag," which can include different combinations of foods and beverages. But you don't have to worry yet about changes to your area Wendy's because this is a test launch that will, starting out, only affect one location.

What to expect

When Wendy's implements its first FreshAI in a company-owned location in Columbus, Ohio, in June, it will collect data and anecdotal information that will be used for future rollouts of the system.

"Google Cloud's generative AI technology creates a huge opportunity for us to deliver a truly differentiated, faster, and frictionless experience for our customers, and allows our employees to continue focusing on making great food and building relationships with fans that keep them coming back time and again," Penegor said in a statement. 

Now that about 75% to 80% of Wendy's orders are placed in the drive-thru lane, using artificial intelligence could be a big game-changer for the chain, as well as other fast-food operations going forward. Penegor told The Wall Street Journal that by implementing the new technology, Wendy's is not looking to swap real people with AI technology but hopes it will help workers to focus on the manual tasks of fulfilling a drive-thru order.