Today Wendy’s announced it is working with Google Cloud to develop a generative AI solution for drive-thrus called Wendy’s Fresh AI.
The new solution, which is powered by Google Cloud’s generative AI and large language model technology, will go into a pilot test next month at a Wendy’s company-operated store in Columbus, Ohio. According to the announcement, the new tool will be able to have conversations with customers, the ability to understand made-to-order requests, and generate responses to frequently asked questions.
In contrast to general-purpose consumer interfaces for LLMs such as ChatGPT and Google Bard, Wendy’s Fresh AI will be walled off and tailored around interacting with customers ordering food at a Wendy’s drive-thru. According to the company, Wendy’s Fresh AI will have access to data from Wendy’s menu and will be programmed with rules and logic conversation guardrails, ensuring that the conversation bot doesn’t spout off about politics or culture when prompted, but focuses solely on helping customers get their burger order right.
The deal is a nice pick-up for Google, which has been on its heels to a degree since last fall when the OpenAI released ChatGPT. Google’s strength in enterprise platforms through its Google Cloud infrastructure services could possibly give it a leg up on other generative AI platforms, even though OpenAI beat the company to the fast food drive-thru lane through its partnership with Presto.
Wendy’s says that it will use the learnings from the pilot to inform future expansion of the platform to other Wendy’s drive-thrus.
Where Is This All Going?
The restaurant quick-service industry has been embracing digital transformation in a big way over the past few years as a way to remedy the industry’s continued struggle with finding qualified workers, and the fast food drive-thru is probably one of the roles could be largely automated with a well-tuned generative AI model. I can envision a hybrid model that utilizes a gen-AI as the first point-of-contact customer interaction layer, but has it backstopped by a remote carbon-based life form (i.e. human) that can step in when there is the first hint of something out of the ordinary. Think of it as a Gen-AI/Bite Ninja hybrid model (while Bite Ninja hasn’t announced any AI solution partnerships for its cloud labor platform, I would be surprised if those conversations aren’t already underway).
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