Wendy’s Uses AI to Power Drive-Thru Ordering

A Columbus, Ohio location will pilot the technology, and use will be expanded if the test proves successful.

May 11, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Wendy’s is utilizing AI chatbots to take customers’ order at the drive-thru, reports CBS News.

The fast-food company has partnered with Google Cloud on the technology and will launch a pilot at a restaurant in the Columbus, Ohio area. If the pilot proves successful, it could be expanded. The pilot will include new generative AI offerings, such as Vertex AI and more, that will be able to have conversations with customers, understand made-to-order requests and generate responses to frequently asked questions.

Wendy’s says that around 75 to 80% of customers prefer to order through the drive-thru, but it’s tough to deliver a seamless order experience using AI due to menu complexities, special requests and ambient noise. However, Google Cloud's generative AI capabilities can now bring a new automated ordering experience to the drive-thru that is intended to enhance the experience.

"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," said Todd Penegor, president and CEO of Wendy's, 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."

By leveraging generative AI, Wendy's seeks to take the complexity out of the ordering process so employees can focus on serving up fast, fresh-made, quality food and exceptional service.

"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," said Thomas Kurian, CEO at Google Cloud. "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."

Presto Automation recently announced the expansion of a partnership with CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, to roll out its AI-powered solution, Presto Voice, to automate voice ordering at CKE drive-thru locations nationwide.

Uber Eats has partnered with Amazon’s Alexa to allow customers to use their Echo devices to track the status of their Uber Eats orders, while Panera Bread announced that MyPanera members can now order via Alexa on Echo Show devices.

Convenience retailer Casey’s uses AI to answer phone calls when customers order pizza. According to the retailer, results have been very positive.

Foodservice is labor intensive, and retailers are finding creative ways to get more from their workers. The May issue of NACS Magazine focuses on foodservice and includes the article Well-Equipped, which looks at labor-saving foodservice equipment.