Some brands have taken to the sky with drone delivery. Wendy’s is opting for below the ground. 

The brand announced Wednesday a partnership with hyperlogistics company Pipedream, which plans to use an underground autonomous robotic system to transfer orders—within seconds—from the kitchen to an Instant Pickup portal beside designated parking spaces. Wendy’s said it will be the first quick-service restaurant to pilot this technology. 

“We know that serving orders quickly and accurately leads to increased customer satisfaction,” Deepak Ajmani, Wendy’s U.S. COO, said in a statement. “Pipedream’s Instant Pickup system has the potential to unlock greater mobile order speed of service and accuracy, enabling us to consistently deliver hot and fresh Wendy’s products to our fans.”

The first underground delivery system will be added to an existing store later in 2023. The company did not indicate where the restaurant is located. 

“We’re proud to partner with an iconic, innovative brand like Wendy’s to bring the future of mobile order pick-up to the quick service industry,” Pipedream CEO Garrett McCurrach said in a statement. “By solving order handoff, the final leg of the digital experience, our Instant Pickup technology allows Wendy’s restaurant team members to focus on what matters: serving delicious, high-quality food and connecting with customers in this digital-first world.”

Wendy’s said the technology is supposed to make digital ordering “fast, reliable, and invisible.” In the U.S., the channel accelerated every month during Q1, and the brand achieved a record mix of more than 11 percent. The increase was partially due to Wendy’s March Madness promotion, which drove a 5 percent lift in total loyalty members and a nearly 10 percent rise in monthly active users versus the prior quarter. Globally, digital sales grew 25 percent year-over-year in the first quarter and accounted for over 12 percent of sales. 

Customer response proves Wendy’s is heading in the right direction. In Q1, digital satisfaction scores significantly increased compared to 2022, and delivery wait time and order accuracy sequentially improved. 

Wendy’s digital journey is evolving quickly. The Pipedream announcement comes a little more than a week after the chain revealed it’s partnering with Google Cloud to test drive-thru AI. The pilot will begin in June at a Columbus, Ohio, restaurant. There’s also the brand’s upcoming digital-forward Global Next Gen prototype, which will come with a delivery pick-up window, mobile order parking and in-restaurant shelving, a galley-style kitchen, and efficient lighting and HVAC systems. 

Matt Spessard, senior vice president and global chief technology officer, said Wendy’s is constantly exploring how to “meet our customers however they choose to engage with us.” Pipedream is one of those avenues. 

“As mobile ordering preferences increase, we’re thrilled to be the first quick service restaurant to partner with Pipedream, leveraging their unique delivery technology and system with the goal of reinventing digital pick-ups to bring more Wendy’s to more people as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Spessard said in a statement. 

Customer Experience, Fast Food, Operations, Story, Technology, Wendy's