For most of us, the microphone and speaker set-up in the drive-thru line has been a part of our life since birth. It's just always been there. What some people may not remember is that the drive-thru line as we know it - with multiple stops between placing our order and picking up our food - was developed by Wendy's founder Dave Thomas.

You can find a quick history of it on Wendy's site.

Credit: Wendy's
Credit: Wendy's

52 years later, Wendy's is looking to change the game again.

Automated drive-thru ordering isn't new. Popeye's introduced an automated, robotic voice to take your order in the drive-thru not too long ago, but Wendy's is planning to go a step further by adding AI.

Via the Wall Street Journal:

Wendy’s is automating its drive-through service using an artificial-intelligence chatbot powered by natural-language software developed by Google and trained to understand the myriad ways customers order off the menu.

With the move, Wendy’s is joining an expanding group of companies that are leaning on generative AI for growth.

The Dublin, Ohio-based fast-food chain’s chatbot will be officially rolled out in June at a company-owned restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, Wendy’s said. The goal is to streamline the ordering process and prevent long lines in the drive-through lanes from turning customers away, said Wendy’s Chief Executive Todd Penegor.

Wendy’s didn’t disclose the cost of the initiative beyond saying the company has been working with Google in areas like data analytics, machine learning and cloud tools since 2021.

That doesn't mean you'll be seeing it in Louisiana right away, but if the Dublin, Ohio Wendy's operation sees a lot of success with this, we might not be waiting too long to see it spread to other locations and states.

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Companies across several industries are trying to find a way to incorporate artificial intelligence into their operations. Wall Street is at times both eager and fearful of what adaptive-learning technology can do in the workplace.

In the restaurant space, we're also seeing trends like robots delivering your food - even at local spots in Lafayette.

But Wendy's appears to be going all-in to embrace the tech trend, and an automated system in the drive-thru is one of the easy ways to do it. However, there are some challenges.

It's unclear how the AI will be able to decipher what a driver is ordering and what the system picks up from background noise from the engine, loud children, music, and other sources. It's also unclear if the system will be able to pick up on the subtle differences in the way people order.

"Generative AI" is a type of AI that will be frequently learning based on the information that is put in, meaning that as more people order, the more it would learn about how people order. So while one person will order mayo only and another tells the AI to take off everything except mayo, it will ultimately learn that those phrases mean the same thing.

Wendy's is currently working with Google on this process, which is expected to roll out this summer.

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