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Wendy’s partners with Google to pilot AI-based drive-thru

Wendy’s is moving ahead to enhance the ordering experience with Google Cloud.

The Wendy’s Company is proceeding with plans to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and hybrid cloud tools at the drive-thru window.

The quick-serve chain is expanding an existing partnership with Google to pilot a solution, called “Wendy’s FreshAI,” which based on Google Cloud's generative AI and large language models (LLMs) technology.

In October 2021, Wendy’s first announced plans to utilize Google Cloud data analytics, AI, machine learning (ML), and hybrid cloud technology, such as speech-to-text and Google search and maps, to create new ways customers can order food via touchpoints, including drive-thru and mobile device.

Specifically, the company will leverage Google Cloud solutions including the Looker business intelligence and analytics tool, as well as the Anthos modernization platform, to modernize operations.

In addition, Wendy’s plans to upgrade its in-store experience for customers and employees using the Google BigQuery and Looker solutions to improve business analytics and reporting. And with Google Cloud Anthos, an open-source-based platform, Wendy's seeks to enable store applications and real-time AI/ML to run anywhere – including on-premise or in the cloud.

[Read more: Check out Wendy’s ‘next gen’ restaurant design]

In June 2023, Wendy's plans to launch its first pilot of Google Cloud AItechnology in a Columbus, Ohio-area, company-operated restaurant. The pilot will utilize Google Cloud generative AI solutions, such as Vertex AI, to automatically conduct conversations with customers, understand made-to-order requests and generate responses to frequently asked questions. 

Supporting the pilot will be Google's foundational LLMs which have the data from Wendy's menu, established business rules and logic for conversations, and integration with the retailer’s restaurant hardware and NCR Aloha POS system.

“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."

"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," said Thomas Kurian, CEO at Google Cloud. "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."

Columbus, Ohio-based Wendy's and its franchisees employ hundreds of thousands of people across approximately 7,000 restaurants worldwide.

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