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Burger Chain Wendy's Brings AI to Drive-Thru; Here's What Customers and Critics Said

Wendy's has always been forward in new innovations and this new AI can make or break the game for them.
Image Source: A general view from a Wendy's store| Photo by Kena Betancur | VIEWpress | Getty Images
Image Source: A general view from a Wendy's store| Photo by Kena Betancur | VIEWpress | Getty Images

AI has arrived in the fast-food industry and major burger chain Wendy's is dishing out automated service at drive-thrus for customers via Fresh AI. Although the goal is to expedite ordering and enhance customer satisfaction, some are concerned about the impact on employment and the quality of the service. Wendy's aims to address this by streamlining processes, ensuring consistency between visits, and expediting the ordering process.

Image Source : A general view from a Wendy's store| Photo by Kena Betancur | VIEWpress | Getty Images
Image Source : A general view from a Wendy's store| Photo by Kena Betancur | VIEWpress | Getty Images

With its own lingo and acronyms, such as "JBC" for junior bacon cheeseburger and "biggie bags" for combos of burgers, nuggets, and drinks, Wendy's has a distinct way of ordering meals. Customers may not always refer to Wendy's milkshakes as Frosties, even if that is how they are called.

Ordering at a drive-thru may seem simple, but getting AI to process them is very difficult, according to Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian. When children or loud music is playing in a car, the software must concentrate on the user and comprehend what they are saying. Furthermore, customers may change their minds while placing an order, which makes it more difficult. Additionally, the AI is programmed to recommend to customers larger portions, Frosties, or daily deals. Once an order is taken, the cooks may see it appear on a screen to be prepared.

Test runs at a Columbus location have gone smoothly, according to Wendy's tech chief Kevin Vasconi. He believes the AI to be possibly even superior to their finest human customer support representative. They aim to demonstrate to franchise owners how this technology can improve consistency and speed of service.

According to Wendy's, drive-thrus now account for around 80% of their orders, up from two-thirds before COVID-19. They wish to service more clients more quickly to increase sales by reducing how long it takes to order. In March, Wendy’s announced a plan to save money and increase sales by around 6% to 8% this year. They want to keep costs steady while growing sales, focusing on making things more efficient.

The addition of this tech may simplify certain tasks but may also result in job losses. Many people rely on jobs at Wendy's and other similar establishments to help them pay their bills and go forward in their respective professions. Wendy's adopting AI is therefore igniting a heated discussion about whether it's worthwhile to demand more technology if it means some people might lose out on work.

Despite these concerns, Wendy is optimistic about Fresh AI. To provide clients with a higher-tech ordering experience, they plan to deploy it in other places as well.

Major fast-food chains are keeping a careful eye on Wendy's. If this trial is successful, artificial intelligence may be used by the entire industry. However, it's still unclear if this will improve or worsen the situation. Consumers are still debating whether speedier service justifies the sacrifice of personal touch.

The question is, will humans or machines run fast food in the future? Wendy's is placing its bet on the machines, and only time will tell how things turns out.