Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include further comment from Wendy’s.
- Wendy’s will test drive-thru artificial intelligence technology built by Google Cloud at a company-operated restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, beginning in June, according to a press release published by Google on Tuesday.
- The tool, called Wendy’s FreshAI, will be able to understand customization requests and respond to common customer questions, per the press release.
- Wendy’s will use the pilot’s results to determine the deployment of the AI at more Wendy’s drive thrus. This test builds on a partnership, announced in 2021, between the burger chain and Google Cloud to test new tech.
Drive-thru AI has become a buzzy solution for restaurant brands seeking labor efficiencies and faster service times, though the limits of the technology aren’t yet clear. In the press release, the companies noted that factors like noise and order complexity can make it difficult for AI technology to succeed in the channel, which captures 75% of Wendy’s orders.
But Wendy’s FreshAI is designed to address those problems, the companies said.
“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,” Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor said in a statement.
The tech is powered by Google Cloud’s large language models, “that have the data from Wendy's menu, established business rules and logic for conversation guardrails, and integration with restaurant hardware and the Point of Sale system.”
In a statement emailed ot Restaurant Dive, Wendy’s said the AI tool was designed to have naturalistic conversations.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the AI chatbot can recognize informal names for products and is designed to upsell customers. Bloomberg reported the tech was intended to help Wendy’s exceed an 85% order accuracy rate, roughly in line with the level of accuracy (low 80% range) McDonald’s deemed underperformance in its own drive-thru AI test last year.
Other chains, like Checker’s & Rally’s, have deployed voice ordering AI at a number of franchisees. CKE, parent of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., announced it had tested three different AI products from Presto, OpenCity and Valyant and would offer them for sale to its franchisees last week.