Wendy’s Ups Its Drive-Thru Game With Voice Recognition

AI will take customer orders, notify staff of long lines and more via Google Cloud partnership.

October 19, 2021

Wendy's Restaurant with Drive Thru

DUBLIN, Ohio and SUNNYVALE, Calif.—Wendy’s announced it is using data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance its customers’ restaurant experience, particularly in the drive-thru.

The fast-food chain is partnering with Alphabet Inc.’s Google Cloud to increase the speed of its drive-thru orders and home deliveries, anticipate return customers’ favorite meals and keep burgers from burning on the grill, Kevin Vasconi, Wendy’s chief information officer, told the Wall Street Journal.

"We are committed to providing our customers with the greatest experience possible, and our partnership with Google Cloud is raising the bar by enabling us to match the experience to their preferences," said Vasconi in the news release. "We believe Google Cloud's AI/ML and data analytics solutions will enable Wendy's to innovate ways to create fast, frictionless and fun interactions that redefine the way customers visit and enjoy our restaurants."

The restaurant plans to use Google’s AI to enable voice-recognition software to take customers’ orders and transcribe the orders for the kitchen, and the company wants to eventually use AI to identify customers who have ordered before and offer personalized service, such as preferred sodas or offering suggestions.

Wendy’s is working toward using computer-vision technology to eliminate the need for team members to watch the drive-thru monitors and instead, the system would let them know when the drive-thru line is long so they can make more fries, for example.

The fast-food chain’s app downloads increased by 15% between July and October 2020. It plans to use Google BigQuery to consolidate data on sales, restaurants, products and customers with third-party data on weather, social media, delivery partners and other sources. By using BigQuery combine with Google’s own data, Wendy’s will be able to better find out specific data points within the business, such as how weather correlates with Frosty sales in San Diego by using Google’s information on weather and trends.

Last year, Wendy’s introduced a breakfast offering, which helped the chain’s same-store sales increase 5.1% in June and 8.2% in July. Wendy’s also reported that digital sales doubled during the same quarter and were 5% of sales, up from 2.5% of sales in 2019. Most of that increase came through delivery channels. The chain has deals with every major third-party delivery company.

Drive-thrus are increasing among convenience stores, as customers are preferring the service. NACS Magazine dove into this topic in “Pass Through” in the October 2020 issue.