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Google and Wendy's team up to give the drive-through an AI makeover

The AI chatbot will make its debut in June.

Published onMay 9, 2023

google logo G at ces 20201
  • Google and Wendy’s are testing out an AI chatbot that can take orders in the drive-through lane.
  • The point of the new AI chatbot is to streamline the ordering process to reduce long lines.
  • The food chain’s new chatbot will debut in June at a company-owned restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.

As talk about AI continues to heat up, more organizations are trying to figure out how to use it to enhance business. As a result, we’re starting to see Bard, ChatGPT, and other AI models pop up in places we didn’t expect. For example, an AI chatbot could be taking your next fast food order.

Wendy’s plans on giving its drive-through an AI makeover, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. To accomplish this, Wendy’s has joined forces with Google to test out a new AI chatbot. That chatbot will take orders from the customers that drive up to it. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce long lines by streamlining the ordering process.

Based on the natural-language software developed by Google, the chatbot has been trained to understand the different ways customers order off the menu. This includes recognizing unique terms, phrases, and shorthand such as JBC for Junior Bacon Cheeseburger.

“It will be very conversational,” Wendy’s Chief Executive Todd Penegor said about the chatbot. “You won’t know you’re talking to anybody but an employee.”

In addition to understanding terms and phrases, the chatbot also has to recognize reasoning that isn’t straightforward. For example, a customer may request a milkshake, but the AI needs to know that they are asking for a Frosty. Adding to that complexity, the software needs to be able to cut through background noise and focus on the person making the order. “You may think driving by and speaking into a drive-through is an easy problem for AI, but it’s actually one of the hardest,” said Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud.

To dispel concerns of this technology potentially taking away jobs, Penegor says replacing workers with AI is not part of its plans. Instead, the AI will simply take the order and pass on the information to the line cooks and cashier.

Wendy’s AI chatbot is scheduled to make its debut in June. However, it won’t be something that will appear at every Wendy’s location. It will only be available at a company-owned restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.

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