It’s possible that the next time you go through the drive-through, an artificial intelligence chatbot will take your order instead of a real worker.

The Ohio-based fast food chain Wendy’s is testing out a Google-developed AI chatbot at one of its locations. The chatbot will be taught how to communicate with clients in a natural way and what they normally order from the menu.

Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor has stated that the test bot will be “very conversational,” to the point that some customers may not even realise they aren’t speaking with a real person.

Wendy’s software programmers have been working with the search giant to fine-tune the latter’s massive language model for terms and phrases unique to the fast food chain’s menu selections. For instance, Frosties are the official name for the company’s milkshakes, although some consumers may simply refer to them as a milkshake. Wendlandisms such as “biggie bag” are also being added to the chatbot’s lexicon.

The chatbot accepting orders will also have to contend with environmental factors specific to the drive-thru, such as the presence of other people talking, the sound of the radio, or the rumble of an engine. The indecision of your customers is another factor to consider. How frequently do you change your mind about an order in the middle of placing it?

According to Kevin Vasconi, CIO of Wendy’s, preliminary tests have shown positive results. He compared it to a human customer care rep, saying, “It’s at least as good as our best customer service rep, and it’s probably on average better.”

Nothing about the upselling features built into the order-taking chatbot should come as a surprise. You’ll constantly be pestered by upsell and specials offers.

Penegor explained that the chatbot was created to keep consumers from having to wait too long in the drive-thru lane, which could cause them to go elsewhere. A fast food restaurant’s ability to turn around an order quickly and accurately is far more important to keeping customers than reducing wait times, in my opinion. Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out Burger are just two restaurants that have mastered the art of queue management long ago.

Wendy’s plans to launch their chatbot in June, starting with one of their franchises in Columbus, Ohio.


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