Tech

Google joins Wendy’s to train AI chatbot for drive-thru orders – Times of India

Wendy’s, a fast-food chain based in Dublin, Ohio, will launch its chatbot at a company-owned restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, in June. According to The Wall Street Journal, Wendy’s is teaming up with Google to develop an AI chatbot that can efficiently take orders at their drive-thru locations.
The chatbot aims to simplify the ordering process and avoid long lines in the drive-through, said Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor.
Wendy’s software engineers have teamed up with Google to develop and refine a generative AI application. This application is built on Google’s extensive language model, which contains many words, phrases, and expressions in various dialects and accents. The goal of the model is to recognize and emulate human speech syntax and semantics.
The fast-food chain has personalised the language model that includes specific words, phrases, and abbreviations that customers commonly use when ordering their menu items. For example, “JBC” refers to the junior bacon cheeseburger, and “biggie bags” are different combos of burgers, chicken nuggets, and soft drinks. Wendy’s milkshakes are also branded as Frosties, but customers may not always use that name.
The CEO of Google Cloud, Thomas Kurian, explains that drive-through interactions pose a significant challenge for AI. The presence of background noise, such as music or children in the car, makes it difficult for the AI software to focus on the person placing the order and the language they use. This requires extensive fine-tuning to filter out extraneous sounds. Furthermore, customers often change their orders, and the AI application must capture and adapt to these changes. Kurian describes this as a highly complex technical issue.
The AI application has been programmed to suggest additional items to customers, such as larger sizes, Frosties, or daily specials, in order to upsell.
Once a customer places an order through the chatbot, it is displayed on a screen for the line cooks to prepare. The prepared meals are then handed over to drivers at the pickup window by a staff member.
Recently, Kevin Vasconi, the Chief Information Officer at Wendy’s, expressed delight with the trial operations carried out at the Columbus restaurant. “The AI system is at least on par with our top-performing customer service representative, and on average, it delivers an even better experience,” Vasconi said.
Wendy’s has not revealed the exact cost of their initiative.
Penegor has stated that the drive-through chatbot is not related to the company’s restructuring plans and is not meant to replace workers. Its purpose is to help employees by automating manual tasks involved in taking drive-through orders.





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