Wendy's are set to implement AI to help revolutionise how drive-throughs are experienced by customers. Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

American fast-food chain, Wendy's, is looking to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to evolve the drive-through process at fast-food restaurants. Wendy's FreshAI, the AI solution manufactured by Wendy's partners, Google Cloud, will attempt to alter how customers order their food from Wendy's drive-through spots.

The fast-food industry appears to be the latest area to prioritise involving AI in its day-to-day running as another fast-food chain, McDonald's, has put AI ordering systems in place for customers at drive-throughs, although that has not had great results judging by the mistakes noted through criticism on social media.

This new collaboration between Wendy's and Google Cloud is the latest development in the ever-growing partnership between the two organisations, which first joined forces in 2021. The partnership came about as Wendy's was striving to make itself more conveniently available to customers and Google Cloud's data analytics, machine learning and AI tools assisted with that.

Google Cloud's generative AI technology will allow a new automated experience for customers when ordering their food and is an improvement on how ordinary AI would operate at drive-throughs.

Due to up to 80 per cent of customers at Wendy's preferring to place their orders via the drive-through system, it would be a real challenge to have a consistent ordering experience with traditional AI. This is because of factors such as numerous menu items, customised order combinations plus any background noise or interference which could lead to confusion and incorrect orders being sent out.

President and CEO of Wendy's, Todd Penegor, touched on the company's history in the fast-food landscape and its work with Google Cloud. He commented, "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".

Penegor also spoke on how Google Cloud's features will benefit Wendy's customers and staff. He stated, "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."

Next month will see Wendy's utilise Google Cloud's AI technology for the very first time at a company-operated restaurant in Columbus. This launch will see the latest generative AI features on offer, including Vertex AI, which will be able to process conversations with customers, read made-to-order requests and have responses to common questions.

This will be able to function through the use of Google's foundational large language models (LLMs) as it will store data from Wendy's menu, instil business logic for conversation guardrails plus integration with restaurant hardware and the Point of Sale system. By using generative AI, Wendy's can allow staff to focus on effectively preparing food.

CEO of Google Cloud, Thomas Kurian, offered his take on the company's partnership with Wendy's. He said, "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".

Kurian added further thoughts, saying "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."

It remains to be seen whether restaurants in Britain will begin to utilise AI in drive-through locations as plenty of organisations in the region are being encouraged to do so in business operations in order to remain relevant in this digital landscape. The well-established fast-food chains may think it is beneficial for all locations around the world to adopt an AI drive-through system.

Elsewhere, British fast-food bakery chain, Greggs, is expecting further growth levels this year with a nine per cent profit upturn forecasted. The cost-of-living crisis has played a part here as Greggs is offering good valued meals plus opening up for more hours into the evening which has led to greater sales.