“It’s at least as good as our best customer service reps, and probably better on average,” Kevin Vasconi, Wendy’s CIO, told wall street journalThe fifth-largest U.S. fast-food chain will start using an artificial intelligence chatbot to interact with drive-thru customers next month after a successful early test.
The company has been working behind the scenes with Google on a variety of machine learning and AI tools, and is now expanding the partnership to begin deploying Google’s Large Language Model (LLM) generative AI system Vertex AI Platformwhich has been custom-trained to take over from human workers, take drive-thru orders and chat with customers.
Voice AI technology has advanced by leaps and bounds — mind you, you wouldn’t know it was trying to talk to my Google Home — and the two companies have teamed up on a system called FreshAI. The model understands the entire menu, including street slang for certain orders, and is able to hold conversations within a set of “guardrails,” as well as accept custom orders and answer questions.
It integrates with the company’s point-of-sale system and is trained to follow the company’s current rules for its human drive-through window workers.
Wendy’s will begin a pilot program next month at a location in the Columbus, Ohio, area, in the hope that some customers won’t realize they’re not talking to a human. From there, the company hopes to expand to include other drive-thru locations.
“Google Cloud’s generative AI technology creates a tremendous opportunity for us to deliver a truly differentiated, faster and frictionless experience for our customers, and free up our employees to continue to focus on making great food and connecting with Fans build relationships that keep them coming back time and time again,” Wendy’s President and CEO Todd Penegor said in a release.
Wendy’s employs more than 14,500 people at more than 7,000 locations worldwide and has annual revenues approaching $2 billion. Nearly 80% of customers order through drive-thru rather than in-store.
I guess at least this time the AI isn’t working on anyone’s favorite job, is it?