In an attempt to improve the drive-thru experience for its customers, Wendy's is partnering with Google Cloud to pilot an AI solution called Wendy's FreshAI. With the drive-thru being the preferred ordering method for 80% of Wendy's customers, this initiative aims to streamline the ordering process while addressing the challenges posed by complex menu options and special requests.
The pilot program, set to launch in June in Columbus, Ohio, will utilize Google's Vertex AI and other generative AI offerings. The chatbot can handle complex orders, suggestively sell menu items and understand challenges like background noise. Early tests show the chatbots perform on par or better than human employees.
The new technology highlights how companies are turning to AI for growth. By leveraging these advanced technologies, Wendy's aims to simplify the ordering process, allowing employees to focus on providing quality food and exceptional service. If early benefits materialize, and franchisees adopt the tools, the company plans to roll out the chatbots systemwide.
Wendy's is not alone in its quest to explore AI-driven drive-thru experiences. Other players in the fast-food industry, such as McDonald's, Popeyes, and Panera, have also been experimenting with AI technology to streamline their drive-thru ordering processes (albeit with mixed results). As more fast-food chains embrace AI solutions, the industry can expect to see a shift in how customers interact with their favorite brands.
The future of fast food and retail may well depend on smart adoption of AI for customer service. With Wendy’s sizable investment in this technology, the company clearly believes using AI to boost speed and sales will give them a competitive edge. However, despite the potential benefits of AI chatbots, concerns regarding their accuracy persist. A BTIG survey found an accuracy rate of around 80% for McDonald's drive-thru AI technology, emphasizing the need for further development in this area. As AI technology continues to improve, fast-food chains will need to address these challenges to ensure a seamless and accurate drive-thru experience for their customers.