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Google: Generative AI in the QSR Drive-Thru

Google and US fast food chain Wendy’s are testing AI-powered voice bots to reduce ordering times and improve accuracy during drive-thru ordering. The latest Large Language Models from Google and Open AI can revolutionize interaction with digital signage screens.

At the I/O developer conference, Google presented the latest Large Language Model (LLM) Palm 2 and it’s generative AI platform Google Bard as the answer to Chat-GPT from Open AI/Microsoft. Many new use cases are now made possible by Generative AI that were previously not technically or financially feasible.

A major pain point for QSR restaurants is the drive-thru ordering process – loud ambient noise makes communication difficult, poor microphones and speakers distort what is being said, and both employees and customers do not always speak clearly. Generative AI is intended to improve the quality of interaction and thus the guest experience.

At a Wendy’s restaurant not far from the burger chain’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, Google technology for Generative AI and Large Language Models (LLMs) is now being used in the drive thru for the first time.

Eight out of ten QSR guests in North America use the drive thru, exactly the opposite as in Europe. In addition, it is common in North America for guests to have many special requests, even with standardized QSR offers. These extras with theoretically billions of possible order combinations and the ambient noise represent a major challenge for previous AI-based voice solutions. Miscommunication and incorrect orders were commonplace.

The new generative AI solutions such as Vertex AI from Google Cloud are now intended to offer a new automated ordering experience at the drive thru by automatically conducting conversations with customers, having the ability to understand orders with special requests and generating answers to frequently asked questions. The new AI solution is integrated into the hardware and the cash register system – thanks to a unified Google Cloud infrastructure. Guests, employees and franchisees alike should benefit from a personalized, fast and seamless experience. McDonald’s and other QSRs are also testing AI, particularly in the drive-thru environment.