Wendy’s, the fast-food giant, has announced that it will be introducing an AI-powered chatbot for its drive-thru service. The chatbot has been developed in partnership with Google, using the tech giant’s natural language processing software to understand the various ways customers place their orders. The pilot program will be tested at a single restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, with the goal of improving the ordering process and reducing waiting times for customers.

The chatbot has been programmed to not only take orders but also suggest larger sizes, daily specials, and other products, with the aim of increasing sales. Once the order is placed, it will appear on the screen of the line cooks, who will then prepare the meal to be handed off to a staff member who will deliver the food to the driver.

According to Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor, the chatbot’s conversational abilities are such that “you won’t know you’re talking to anybody but an employee.” The company has invested heavily in data analytics, machine learning, and cloud tools to create the chatbot, which is built on Google’s Large Language Model (LLM).

The move towards AI in the fast-food industry has raised concerns about the impact on jobs, with experts warning that the rise of AI across various sectors could potentially disrupt job markets. However, Wendy’s has stated that the chatbot’s deployment is not an attempt to replace human workers, but rather to improve efficiency and increase sales.

The pilot program aims to convince franchisees of the technology’s merit in boosting service speed and consistency. Wendy’s has seen a significant increase in drive-thru orders, from 30% of all its orders before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to 80% today. The objective is to expedite the drive-thru process and increase sales with every minute saved.

The chatbot is not related to the company’s restructuring plan, aimed at company-wide sales growth and cost-cutting, which was unveiled earlier this year. With the generative AI market spending expected to reach $42.6 billion by the end of the year, it appears that Wendy’s is making a strategic move to remain ahead of the curve in the fast-food industry.

As AI technology advances, the fear of AI taking over jobs is palpable, and this trial from Wendy’s serves as a stark reminder of that possibility. However, it is important to note that AI-powered chatbots can improve the customer experience while also creating new job opportunities. The future of fast food is here, and it is serving up orders with cutting-edge tech.