Fast-food giant Wendy’s is taking a leap into the future with the introduction of an AI-powered chatbot, aiming to revolutionize customer service and drive-thru experiences. Slated for piloting in a Columbus, Ohio restaurant next month, Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor believes customer interactions with the chatbot, created using Google‘s natural-language software, will feel like dealing with fellow employees.
The goal is to streamline the ordering process and reduce lengthy drive-thru queues, leading to higher customer retention. With Wendy’s drive-thru orders swelling from 30% to an astonishing 80% since the pandemic’s onset, the objective is to enhance the drive-thru experience and boost sales.
In collaboration with Google since 2021, Wendy’s has committed resources to data analytics, machine learning, and cloud tools, fostering the development of this generative AI application based on Google’s large language model (LLM). But replicating human interactions is no easy task; Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian acknowledges, “It’s a very technical problem.”
Mirroring the upselling tactics of human employees, the chatbot suggests larger sizes, Frosties, and daily specials to the customers. Nevertheless, the unsettling reality of AI’s progress looms large, prompting apprehension among the workforce about potential job displacement. Penegor, on the other hand, clarifies that the chatbot’s intent is not to replace human labor.
Wendy’s is among numerous companies exploring AI to bolster efficiency and curtail operational expenses. The swift rise of AI across diverse sectors threatens to disrupt job markets and poses concerns about AI’s long-term societal impact. Notably, the term FOOM stands for the “Fast Onset of Overwhelming Mastery” – a hypothetical scenario where AI replaces humans in most tasks, unsettling societal norms.
A study by Pew Research reveals that a sizable portion of the US workforce is uneasy about AI’s effects on their jobs. While Wendy’s launched a restructuring plan in March to spur sales growth and cut costs, the company affirms that the chatbot is not associated with these efforts. However, with the generative AI market spending projected to reach $42.6 billion by year-end, courtesy of PitchBook, Wendy’s strategic moves appear to keep pace with the rapidly advancing technology curve.
As the AI era teeters on the brink of unveiling an automation and efficiency boom, fast food lovers might want to keep an eye out for AI-powered chatbots at their favorite drive-thrus. While AI may perfect your Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger order, don’t forget – it has yet to master that sage life advice feature.