Wendy’s Working With Google To Test Voice AI At Drive-Thru Ordering Stations

May 10, 2023 by Dave Haynes

QSR giant Wendy’s is going to pilot an AI-driven bot that will handle the voice ordering process in drive-thru lanes, with the goal of speeding up ordering times and improving accuracy.

A trial is set to run at a Wendy’s in Columbus, Ohio, where the burger chain has its head office. The trial will be powered by Google’s Cloud team, using its generative AI and large language models (LLMs) technology.

“With 75 to 80 percent of Wendy’s customers choosing the drive-thru as their preferred ordering channel, delivering a seamless ordering experience using AI automation can be difficult due to the complexities of menu options, special requests, and ambient noise,” says Wendy’s in PR announcing the plans. “For example, because customers can fully customize their orders and food is prepared when ordered at Wendy’s, this presents billions of possible order combinations available on the Wendy’s menu, leaving room for miscommunication or incorrect orders. Google Cloud’s generative AI capabilities can now bring a new automated ordering experience to the drive-thru that is intended to enhance the experience that customers, employees and franchisees expect from Wendy’s.”

“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,” says Todd Penegor, President and CEO of Wendy’s. “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.”

The pilot will be at a company-operated store, with plans to apply what’s learned to more Wendy’s drive-thrus.

The PR adds:

The pilot will include new generative AI offerings, such as Vertex AI and more, to have conversations with customers, the ability to understand made-to-order requests and generate responses to frequently asked questions. 

This will all be powered by Google’s foundational LLMs that have the data from Wendy’s menu, established business rules and logic for conversation guardrails, and integration with restaurant hardware and the Point of Sale system. By leveraging generative AI, Wendy’s seeks to take the complexity out of the ordering process so employees can focus on serving up fast, fresh-made, quality food and exceptional service.

“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,” says Thomas Kurian, CEO at Google Cloud. “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.”

Today’s update builds upon Google Cloud’s and Wendy’s long standing partnership to enhance the Wendy’s restaurant experience. Since 2021, Wendy’s has leveraged Google Cloud’s data analytics, AI, machine learning (ML), and hybrid cloud tools to make it faster, easier, and more convenient for customers to access the brand.

This is quite interesting and a big test of interactive voice in what would be a complicated scenario, between accents, ambient noise and kids in the back who are ignoring parent requests to clam up for a few seconds.

AI in drive-thru is not an entirely new thing. Mortal enemy McDonald’s spent more than $300 million to buy Dynamic Yield, an Israeli company that does the AI-based suggestive selling on the order screens at drive-thrus. That set-up is now widely used by the chain.

Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Sonic and likely most larger QSR chains are, at minimum, trying things.


  1. Marty Durksen says:

    Oh yes please! QSR’s are more frequently staffed by people who’s first language is not English. No more repeating myself 5x.

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