AIs and fries: Wendy’s to trial chatbot drive-thru operator


An artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot dubbed “Wendy’s FreshAI,” will take orders from Wendy’s drive-thru customers after the fast-food chain partnered with Google Cloud to create the bot.

Over three-quarters of Wendy’s customers prefer to place their orders via drive-thru, according to a May 9 announcement from Google Cloud and the Tech Giant claimed using a chatbot to service these customers will “revolutionize the quick service restaurant industry.”

AI chatbots such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT use natural language processing to understand what people are saying, and then use machine learning algorithms to generate a response.

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In a statement to Wall Street Journal, Wendy’s CEO and president Todd Penegor said the chatbot “will be very conservational,” adding “you won’t know you’re talking to anybody but an employee.”

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian noted, however, there many challenges associated with using chatbots to service drive-thru customers though, and said:

“You may think driving by and speaking into a drive-through is an easy problem for AI, but it’s actually one of the hardest”

The diversity of customers’ orders is one challenge that Wendy’s and Google Cloud will have to overcome, as many customers might call menu items by a different name or have special requests. Additionally, the chatbot will also have to filter out any background noise.

To help refine the AI chatbot before it is rolled out to multiple stores, Wendy’s FreshAI will undergo a pilot launch at a Columbus, Ohio, restaurant in June. Customers will still have the option to speak to a human too.

Not everyone is impressed with the announcement though, with some arguing it’s the latest way companies are “systematically eradicating jobs” and highlighted teenagers and others who are less skilled looking to gain employment would be the most affected by the change.

While AI has enormous potential to improve efficiency, increase productivity, and reduce costs in various industries, its unprecedented growth has many worried that it will bring about massive falls in employment as AI is used for tasks previously assigned to humans.

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