Wendy’s Signs With Google Cloud to Bring AI and Voice Recognition to Restaurant Chain
Wendy’s and Google Cloud have signed a deal to augment the restaurant chain with the tech giant’s AI and voice tools. The companies didn’t lay out any financial elements of the partnership, but the agreement is the first step in Wendy’s plans for a voice assistant that can identify customers and predict what they will want by extrapolating from earlier visits.
Google Cloud is providing several digital tools for Wendy’s to customize, including navigation and search software. The restaurant chain plans to design a voice assistant capable of recognizing and interacting with customers from Google’s software. The AI could take and transcribe phone or drive-thru orders to give to the cooks. The AI in the kitchen could even perform as a chef’s assistant using cameras to observe and a speaker to alert the cook when a burger needs to be flipped or that the drive-thru line is getting long. The voice identification aspect would enable that AI to anticipate what the customer might want and personalize the conversation based on previous interactions.
“We are committed to providing our customers with the greatest experience possible, and our partnership with Google Cloud is raising the bar by enabling us to match the experience to their preferences,” Wendy’s chief information officer Kevin Vasconi said. “We believe Google Cloud’s AI/ML and data analytics solutions will enable Wendy’s to innovate ways to create fast, frictionless, and fun interactions that redefine the way customers visit and enjoy our restaurants.”
The partnership marks a significant commitment by Wendy’s to upgrading its experience with voice AI. Coincidentally, the Canadian division of Wendy’s just debuted a limited edition custom voice assistant and branded smartphone for a marketing campaign. Wendy’s only gave away 20 of these reskinned Samsung Galaxy A11 smartphones, but each ran on an Android-based operating system with Wendy the voice assistant responding to “Hey, Wendy” as a wake word. The cheerful voice assistant can handle most standard phone functions as well as offer Wendy’s specific information. Voice assistants for restaurants are becoming more common, either independently or supported by Alexa or Google Assistant. Companies can customize the voices of their apps to suit the brand too. For instance, KFC Canada used Amazon’s Polly technology to make a voice for its Alexa skill speak like Colonel Sanders.
Wendy’s is joining the growing race by quick-service restaurants to include a voice assistant in drive-thrus. Colorado-based Valyant AI added a voice assistant into Denver’s Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard in 2019 and has been expanding ever since with a boost from the $4.5 million funding round late last year. Popular Ohio chicken restaurant chain Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken Restaurant provided its drive-thru with a voice assistant built by Israeli startup Hi Auto and Mastercard, while SoundHound added a voice assistant to some White Castle and Sonic restaurants, combining taking drive-thru orders and processing payments on the same software. ConverseNow recently closed a $15 million funding round for its drive-thru voice tech. And everyone is watching McDonald’s, which went from a single pilot restaurant with a voice assistant in 2019 to deploying its virtual server in 10 drive-thrus around Chicago with concrete expansion plans. If McDonald’s is too cautious, however, Wendy’s may beat them to the punch.
“Wendy’s has always been a leader—from introducing the first modern day pick-up window in the industry to the first fast-food salad bar,” Google Cloud president of sales Robert Enslin pointed out. “By bringing together Wendy’s commitment to innovation, with the best of Google technology, we can help build the quick service restaurant of tomorrow that redefines speed, convenience, and quality.”