If you’re like me, you hate having to scream your order through a drive-thru intercom only to be greeted with a burger that most definitely does have tomatoes on it. Thankfully Wendy’s is testing out a new ordering system that would see artificial intelligence chatbots take your order instead.
The fast-food giant has partnered with Google (which has already had its own run-ins with AI) to test a chatbot at one of its restaurants in Ohio. The bot is designed to understand how customers order items and interact with customers in a natural, human-like way, so don’t expect any robo-voices telling you to come to the first window.
Wendy’s chief executive Todd Penegor says that the implementation of a test bot will be “very controversial” and notes that some customers may not even know that they are interacting with a chatbot instead of a human employee. This implementation is in an effort to reduce wait times for the drive-thru.
Wendy’s has combined search engineers with Google’s team to adapt the language model to better understand simple keywords and phrases from Wendy’s menu. This could mean that if a customer asks for a ‘JBC,’ the language model knows to punch in an order for a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger.
Essentially, the model is being trained to understand the restaurant’s lingo without having to sit through a gruelling four-hour orientation or watch training videos from the 80s.
The bot would also have to account for typical drive-thru distractions, such as vehicle noise, background chatter, radio stereos, and your passenger reminding you that their combo better come with iced tea.
Wendy’s chief information officer Kevin Vasconi has stated that primitive tests have shown promise, saying, “(the chatbot is) at least as good as our best customer service representative, and it’s probably on average better,” which is kind of a low blow to his hard-working, and more importantly, human employees, right?
If you think this means you can get away from the pesky fast-food ‘upsell,’ you’re wrong. The bot has reportedly already been trained to offer larger sizes or additional items, and how can you say no to a burger-slinging robot?
The chatbot will punch itself in for its shift in June at a company-owned location in Columbus, Ohio.