Fast Food Chain Wendy’s Announces AI-Chatbots May Run Future Drive-Thru Windows

American fast food giant Wendy’s is set to roll out Google AI-chatbots at one of their drive-thru locations in an effort to reduce waiting times and allow people to get their food quicker.

As AI chatbots become more developed, the company has made a move to use them to streamline the ordering process. The chatbot, powered by natural-language software, will be trained to understand all the different ways people order the food.

The new chatbot service is expected to roll out in June. This will make Wendy’s one of a growing number of companies turning to AI to help them grow and expand their business.

The fast food giant didn’t disclose the cost of the initiative, but said they had been working with Google in various other areas, such as data analytics, cloud tools and systems and machine learning since around 2001.

Wendy’s Chief Executive Todd Penegor said the new AI-powered chatbots will be “conversational”. “You won’t know you’re talking to anybody but an employee,” he said.

The AI will be developed to understand the nuances Wendy’s customers use when ordering from the menu – whether it’s ‘JBC’ for junior bacon cheeseburger, ‘milkshake’ or ‘shake’ for their Frostys or ‘biggie bags’ for combinations of burgers, chicken nuggets and soft drinks.

“You may think driving by and speaking into a drive-thru is an easy problem for AI, but it’s actually one of the hardest,” explained Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud.

One of the primary challenges is external noise. The AI needs to be able to distinguish between a person talking on the radio and a person ordering the food. These advancements sound simple, but can take a lot of fine tuning.

Additionally, the chatbot needs to understand when customers change or amend their orders in order to ensure maximum accuracy.

Once your food is cooked and packaged, it will be taken to the pickup window where a worker will hand off the food – much the same as the usual experience.

With so many orders being processed at drive thru, the goal is to maximise the number of orders that can be processed at one time, allowing the company to pick up more sales from the extra time shaved off each customer.