Artificial intelligence chatbots are no longer just a high-tech novelty; they are becoming an integral part of the customer experience for many businesses. A recent partnership between Wendy’s, a fast-food chain, and Google Cloud is making headlines, as the two companies collaborate to develop “Wendy’s FreshAI,” an AI-driven chatbot that will soon take drive-thru orders from customers.
According to a May 9 announcement from Google Cloud, more than 75% of Wendy’s customers prefer to use the drive-thru to place their orders. Emphasizing the potential of AI chatbots to revolutionize the quick-service restaurant industry, Google Cloud published a tweet stating that “#generativeAI” could transform the customer, employee, and overall restaurant experience.
Wendy’s CEO and president, Todd Penegor, has stated that the chatbot “will be very conversational,” assuring that customers won’t be able to tell if they are talking to an AI or a human employee. However, Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian acknowledged the challenges involved in implementing such a system, saying that while it may seem simple to interact with a chatbot via the drive-thru, it’s actually one of the hardest tasks for AI.
One significant challenge for Wendy’s and Google Cloud in developing this chatbot is the diversity of customer orders. People frequently refer to menu items by different names or have special requests, which the AI will need to understand and accommodate. Additionally, filtering out background noise will be paramount for the AI’s performance. As a result, a pilot launch at a Columbus, Ohio restaurant in June will allow Wendy’s FreshAI to undergo refinement before wider implementation. Importantly, customers will still have the option to speak with a human employee during the trial.
However, not everyone is enthusiastic about this development; some argue that integrating AI into the workforce will lead to the systematic eradication of jobs. Critics point out that teenagers and individuals with fewer skills seeking entry-level employment will be most affected by these technological advancements, potentially leading to increased unemployment and a change in the labor force’s landscape.
Quoting a critical tweet from user @PAPatriot14, this concern is highlighted: “@Wendys joining the ever-growing list of companies systemically eradicating jobs. Guess high school kids can just suck it for part-time jobs to give them a start in the world. Enjoy your AI and bankruptcy. I’m not talking to a computer. #DeathofFastFood.”
AI undoubtedly has the power to improve efficiency, increase productivity, and reduce costs across various industries. However, its rapid growth and integration into routine tasks previously performed by humans raise concerns about potential job losses and social consequences. As the progress with AI-chatbots continues, so does the conversation about striking a balance between embracing technological advancements and addressing the concerns surrounding their impact on the labor force.