Wendy’s announced Tuesday that it plans to test automated drive-thru ordering with the help of Google Cloud. 

The solution, called Wendy’s FreshAI, will use Google Cloud’s generative AI and large language models innovation. The pilot will launch in June at a company-operated restaurant in the Columbus, Ohio, market, with hopes of future expansion. The AI will have conversations with customers, understand made-to-order requests, and respond to frequently asked questions. Google’s technology will pull data from Wendy’s menu and established business rules and logic for conversations and integrate with the restaurant’s POS system. 

Eighty percent of Wendy’s orders come via drive-thru.

“Wendy’s introduced the first modern pick-up window in the industry more than 50 years ago, and we’re thrilled to continue our work with Google Cloud to bring a new wave of innovation to the drive-thru experience,” Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor said in a statement. “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.”

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A growing number of quick-service chains have turned to AI at the drive-thru. In 2022, Checkers & Rally’s—in partnership with Presto—became the first chain to announce a nationwide rollout of a drive-thru AI solution. CKE Restaurants, parent of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., is experimenting with automated voice ordering solutions Presto, OpenCity, Valyant AI across the country. In addition, Del Taco revealed at the start of 2023 that it planned to expand its drive-thru AI testing with Presto. In June 2022, it was reported that McDonald’s conducted a 24-store pilot of drive-thru voice ordering in Illinois. Accuracy was in the low 80 percent range, below the 95 percent-plus mark the brand was looking for. 

The idea is to take complexity out of the ordering process (billions of possible order combinations, special requests, ambient noise, miscommunication, and inaccurate orders) and allow employees to focus more on the customer experience. 

The pilot builds upon an established relationship between Wendy’s and Google Cloud. Since 2021, the fast-food chain has used the company’s data analytics, AI, machine learning, and hybrid cloud tools to make itself more accessible to customers.

“Wendy’s has always been at the forefront of innovation, and we’re thrilled to build upon our partnership with the company with our new generative AI technologies,” Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said in a statement. “Generative AI is fundamentally changing how people interact with brands, and we anticipate Wendy’s integration of Google Cloud’s generative AI technology will set a new standard for great drive-thru experiences for the quick-service industry.”

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