COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A fast food chain with roots in Columbus is teaming up with Google to add artificial intelligence to its menu.
Wendy’s — headquartered in Dublin — told NBC4 on Tuesday that it will launch an AI chatbot to automate its restaurants’ drive-thrus. Dubbed FreshAI, it will hold limited conversations with customers like taking their food orders and answering frequently asked questions. The bot will integrate with the store’s hardware and cash register systems for processing orders.
“Google Cloud’s generative AI technology … allows our employees to continue focusing on making great food and building relationships with fans that keep them coming back time and again,” Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor said.
The burger chain, founded in Columbus in 1969, tapped Google to power FreshAI with its existing cloud-based generative AI and large language models. The language models include the restaurant’s menu as data and will allow the drive-thru chatbot to understand complex, customized or indirect orders, as well as discern between a customer’s voice and background noise, Wendy’s said.
“For example, if someone in the drive-thru asks for a large milkshake, we’ll automatically know to make it a large Frosty,” a company spokeswoman said.
Wendy’s will launch FreshAI for a test drive at one of its corporate-owned Columbus storefronts in June, though it did not specify which one as of Wednesday. It also did not mention if the chatbot would result in fewer store workers in the future.
Google has been in a partnership with Wendy’s since 2021 when the two companies announced they would work together to improve customer experiences with analytics and machine learning.