Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional details from Wendy's.
- Wendy’s has partnered with Pipedream, a hyperlogistics company, to test an underground, autonomous robot system to deliver orders from the kitchen to designated parking spots in seconds, the company said Wednesday in a press release.
- The company said it is the first QSR to test this technology, which is expected to provide additional convenience for picking up orders.
- Wendy’s has leaned heavily into new technology, most recently partnering with Google to test a drive-thru chatbot at a company-owned restaurant in Ohio.
Wendy’s robotic delivery and chatbot tests could help the company increase efficiency and free up labor across pickup and drive-thru channels.
“You can expect us to continue pushing into new and promising technology alongside our partners as we look to maximize the restaurant economic model and grow our digital sales to approximately $1.5 billion this year,” Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor said during the company’s May earnings call. The company expects to eventually surpass $2 billion in digital sales by 2025.
Pipedream’s autonomous robots transport orders underground and deliver them via the carside Instant Pickup portal, the company said in the press release. When pickup customers or delivery drivers arrive at the restaurant, they pull into parking spots next to Instant Pickup portals and talk to the restaurant crew through a speaker. The customers verify their identity and order and then receive their orders through the portal, without needing to exit their vehicles, the company wrote in an email to Restaurant Dive.
Wendy’s said this technology will help increase labor efficiency and help streamline digital order pickup points. The delivery system works with the existing drive-thru and is expected to increase drive-thru capacity as it would shift digital order customers and delivery drivers out of the drive-thru lane and into designated pickup areas, the company said.
Pipedream expects its underground autonomous robot system to transport orders in less than one minute from kitchen to designated parking spots. Wendy’s said it would use this pilot to understand average delivery times and said that the timing and system will vary depending on the restaurant.
The company expects to add this system to an existing restaurant later this year, the company said. It is currently in the initial phases of the project and is evaluating company-owned locations in the East Coast that have high digital-order volume, the company said.
Installing the new technology will take less than two weeks, the company said. Most of the construction will take place at night and will have minimal disruption to late-night customers. Construction includes the underground system, as well as the Instant Pickup portals that will be installed in the parking lot and a small input portal added to the kitchen.
Wendy’s FreshAI, the brand name for the drive-thru chatbot, also has the potential to unlock “speed of service, customer satisfaction and profitability,” over time, Penegor said. The slowest point of drive-thru is the ordering station, he said, adding that this technology could help free up employees so they can focus on food and get orders out to customers faster.