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What Is the Latest Fast-Food Chain to Bring AI to the Drive-Thru?

McDonald's is at the forefront of the AI revolution in fast food, implementing voice-ordering technology to streamline the drive-thru experience. This innovation promises quicker service and a personalized touch, transforming how we savor our fast-food favorites. How will this tech-savvy approach shape your next drive-thru visit? Join the conversation and share your thoughts on this digital dining evolution.
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman

Ordering from a drive-thru is about to change – though you might not even notice. Like most industries, fast-food restaurants are grappling with how to integrate artificial intelligence into their operations to make them smoother and more profitable. And while some companies have tried to allay fears that AI will be replacing human employees, chatbots and voicebots are already taking customers’ orders at certain outlets – and they're doing a good job, too.

Wendy’s is the most recent company to introduce AI to its drive-thru, which is the heart of its business, with over three-quarters of customers preferring to order that way. Yet Wendy’s describes the speaker box as the slowest point in the ordering process. The goal is to utilize AI to keep the drive-thru service moving more efficiently and with fewer mistakes.

In an effort to speed up the drive-thru line, Wendy’s is partnering with Google on an AI voicebot that will take orders from customers.
In an effort to speed up the drive-thru line, Wendy’s is partnering with Google on an AI voicebot that will take orders from customers.

Wendy's plans to start testing the program next month at a location in Columbus, Ohio. Powered by Google Cloud’s AI technology, Wendy’s FreshAI has been trained in Wendy’s-specific terms such as “Frosty.” The chatbot is able to converse with customers, take their orders (including special requests), and even encourage them to upgrade to a larger size or try out menu specials. After the conversation (during which the customer may not realize they're talking to a chatbot), the order will be confirmed onscreen and then sent to the kitchen.

May AI take your order?

  • Carl’s Jr. and Hardees are already using AI voicebots at some drive-thrus and are planning to expand the program. Popeyes has also tried out an AI chatbot at a Louisiana outlet, and many other chains are currently developing similar initiatives.

  • In a press release about Wendy’s FreshAI, the company sidestepped addressing how this would affect jobs for human employees, instead stating that “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.”

  • A Wendy’s employee will be on hand to oversee the AI and interact with customers who request a human presence. There is plenty of room for AI error, considering challenges like mishearing customer orders, special menu requests, and the billions of possible order combinations.

Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...

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    • In an effort to speed up the drive-thru line, Wendy’s is partnering with Google on an AI voicebot that will take orders from customers.
      By: michael langley
      In an effort to speed up the drive-thru line, Wendy’s is partnering with Google on an AI voicebot that will take orders from customers.