The next time you get a craving for a spicy chicken sandwich, you might have to ask an AI to ring it up for you. American fast food burger chain Wendy’s is teaming up with Google to make an AI-powered chatbot for taking drive-through food orders, debuting in a single restaurant in Columbus, Ohio in June. According to company representatives, the idea is to streamline the ordering process and speed up the drive-through experience.
If the idea of ordering your food from a speak-and-respond computer program sounds like a headache, you’re not alone. But the Wall Street Journal quotes Wendy’s CIO Kevin Vasconi, who says that the Google-developed AI system is “at least as good as our best customer service representative, probably on average better.” Presumably the tech is at least tangentially related to Google Bard, but that hasn’t been specified. The system has been trained to tune out extraneous noises, like the sound of a passing conversation or kids fighting in the backseat, and can recognize shorthand like “JBC” for “junior bacon cheeseburger.” (Which sounds more like what a marketer wants people to say at the drive-through, if you ask me.)
The program is designed to mimic most of the behaviors of a real drive-through operator, like upselling customers on their orders — the traditional “would you like a Frostie with that?”, et cetera. Once an order is placed and confirmed it’s sent to the restaurant’s (human) line cooks and handed to the customer by a (human) window operator in the usual way. Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor said the tool was designed to help human workers do their job more efficiently, not replace them.
Wendy’s did not say if, or when, the complex system would spread to more locations.