Wendy’s Plans Google Generative AI Drive-Thru in Ohio
Wendy’s and Google Cloud will install a generative AI-powered voice assistant to take drive-thru orders in a summer pilot program, starting with Columbus, Ohio. The new Wendy’s FreshAI leverages Google’s Large Language Models (LLMs), expanding on the deal signed in 2021 by the restaurant chain with Google Cloud’s generative AI features.
Wendy’s Generative Drive-Thru
Wendy’s first FreshAI test for Google Cloud will be at a company-operated location around Columbus starting in June. Google’s foundational LLMs will be embedded at the drive-thru after training to understand Wendy’s menu, company business rules, and its collected guidance on customer service. The AI will be integrated into the restaurant’s hardware Point-of-Sale system to complete the tasks of a human taking the order.
Wendy’s and Google Cloud hinted at a drive-thru AI when signing the original deal. At the time, the companies described potentially building a branded voice assistant capable of recognizing and interacting with customers on the phone and at drive-thrus. One that could even link with kitchen cameras to alert the cook when a burger needs to be flipped or that the drive-thru line is getting long. Generative AI’s flexibility gives Wendy’s plenty of options if the pilot goes well. The new AI goes well beyond the custom voice assistant and branded smartphone marketing stunt Wendy’s ran a couple of years ago and has a chance at being used by many more people than visit Sunrise City, Wendy’s metaverse hub in Meta’s Horizon Worlds.
“Wendy’s introduced the first modern pick-up window in the industry more than 50 years ago, and we’re thrilled to continue our work with Google Cloud to bring a new wave of innovation to the drive-thru experience,” Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor said. “Google Cloud’s generative AI technology creates a huge opportunity for us to deliver a truly differentiated, faster and frictionless experience for our customers, and allows our employees to continue focusing on making great food and building relationships with fans that keep them coming back time and again.”
Wendy’s and Google are far from alone in providing voice AI drive-thru assistants. Just last week, restaurant voice AI developers OpenCity, Presto Automation, and Valyant AI announced deals to bring their respective voice assistants to Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. drive-thrus. All three can point to a quickly growing list of restaurant clients, but Google and Wendy’s may expand their AI drive-thru footprint even faster since it all falls under a single restaurant chain and tech provider. That’s especially true if Wendy’s opens up the drive-thru AI to its franchise owners.
“Wendy’s has always been at the forefront of innovation, and we’re thrilled to build upon our partnership with the company with our new generative AI technologies,” Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said. “Generative AI is fundamentally changing how people interact with brands, and we anticipate Wendy’s integration of Google Cloud’s generative AI technology will set a new standard for great drive-thru experiences for the quick-service industry.”