Wendy’s to Launch AI-Powered Drive-Thru Service


In a move that has the potential to revolutionize the fast-food industry, Wendy’s and Google Cloud have announced an expanded partnership to pilot a cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) solution, Wendy’s FreshAI. This technology is poised to transform Wendy’s drive-thru food ordering experience, employing Google Cloud’s generative AI and large language models (LLMs) technology.

The drive-thru has been the preferred ordering channel for 75 to 80 percent of Wendy’s customers. However, delivering a seamless ordering experience using AI automation has its challenges due to the complexities of menu options, special requests, and ambient noise. For instance, Wendy’s practice of preparing food when ordered and allowing customers to fully customize their orders results in billions of potential order combinations, leaving room for miscommunication or errors. Google Cloud’s generative AI capabilities aim to mitigate these issues, enhancing the drive-thru experience for customers, employees, and franchisees.

“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,” said 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.”

For small businesses in the food service sector, this technological leap represents a potential blueprint for their own operations. It demonstrates how the use of AI can lead to improved efficiency, customer satisfaction, and overall business performance.

In June, Wendy’s plans to launch its first pilot of Google Cloud’s AI technology in a Columbus, OH-area restaurant. The pilot will include new generative AI offerings, such as Vertex AI, to have conversations with customers, 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 aims to simplify the ordering process, enabling employees to focus on delivering high-quality food and exceptional service.

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

Since 2021, Wendy’s has leveraged Google Cloud’s data analytics, AI, machine learning (ML), and hybrid cloud tools to enhance the customer experience. This ongoing partnership, and the forthcoming AI pilot, signals a new era for the quick service restaurant industry, one in which AI and cloud technology play a central role in delivering a superior customer experience.

In the face of such innovation, small business owners should consider the potential benefits of integrating AI solutions into their operations. This could range from more efficient ordering systems to improved customer service and business intelligence. As Wendy’s and Google Cloud continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the quick service industry, it’s clear that the future of this sector will be heavily influenced by technological innovation.

Image: Depositphotos

Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 16 years. A professional journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional media and online media, he attended Waynesburg University and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has held roles of reporter, editor and publisher, having founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press.