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Wendy's will deploy Google Cloud AI chatbot to take drive-thru orders

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(Kitco News) - Fast-food giant Wendy's announced on Tuesday that they will begin piloting a Google Cloud-based AI chatbot to take customer orders at their drive-thru.

“We're thrilled to continue our work with Google Cloud to bring a new wave of innovation to the drive-thru experience,” the company said in a statement.

The company said Wendy's FreshAI is built on Google Cloud's generative AI and large language models (LLMs) technology, and it has the potential “to revolutionize the quick service restaurant industry” and to “transform Wendy's drive-thru food ordering experience.”

According to Wendy’s, between 75 and 80 percent of their customers prefer ordering with drive-thru. “Delivering a seamless ordering experience using AI automation can be difficult due to the complexities of menu options, special requests, and ambient noise,” they wrote. For example, the ability for Wendy’s customers to fully customize their orders means there are “billions of possible order combinations available on the Wendy's menu, leaving room for miscommunication or incorrect orders.”

The company believes Google’s AI platform is capable of dealing with this level of complexity. “Google Cloud's generative AI technology creates a huge opportunity for us to deliver a truly differentiated, faster and frictionless experience for our customers,” they wrote.

Wendy's plans to launch its first pilot of Google Cloud's AI technology next month at one of their Columbus, Ohio locations, and the company plans on using what they learn there “to inform future expansions to more Wendy's drive-thrus.”

The Columbus pilot will include Google’s newest generative AI offerings such as Vertex AI and other technologies which will enable the chatbot to have conversations with customers, understand made-to-order requests and generate responses to frequently asked questions.

“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,” said Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian.

Wendy's has 7,000 restaurants worldwide and together with its franchisees employs hundreds of thousands of people.

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