AI Being Deployed At A Popular Drive-Thru As No Job Is Safe

Wendy's is experimenting with AI chatbots used in drive-thru windows.

By Robert Scucci | Updated

It looks like Wendy’s is getting on board with the AI craze, and will be testing out the technology at their drive-thru window at one of their Columbus, Ohio restaurants, according to Futurism. This is a potential cause of concern to the workforce because we all know too well that whenever a business tries to “streamline” a process, it could mean that jobs are on the line. This is especially foreboding considering that this past January, Wendy’s announced that they were going to be restructuring, and that layoffs were a possibility.

But according to Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor, the intent behind implementing the use of AI chatbots at the drive-thru is to help workers do their jobs better, not to outright replace them. And in many instances, this sentiment could ring true. For example, even though grocery stores utilize self-checkout technology in favor of cashiers, employees are still needed to check ID’s, monitor for theft, and keep a busy line in order by facilitating some of the more difficult transactions.

In other words, even if the person taking orders at the drive-thru speaker could potentially be replaced by an AI chatbot, the point of sale is just one of many pieces of the entire drive-thru operation. If you think about it, this could free up labor costs that would allow franchise owners to hire more cooks, which would make their store operating procedures more efficient. Just like at the grocery store, just because one job could potentially be replaced, it doesn’t mean that labor isn’t needed elsewhere to keep a fast food restaurant thriving by utilizing labor in ways that are more useful to the operation as a whole.

In regard to how an AI drive-thru chatbot would present itself to a customer, Penegor stated that the overall experience would be very conversational, and that “you won’t know you’re talking to anybody but an employee.” But if the experience is anything like talking with a “live agent,” when calling customer service, it’s safe to say that we’ll be able to tell the difference. Let’s just hope that AI drive-thru technology at least has an option to mash ‘zero’ on a keypad until we get connected with a human!

mcdonald's AI

This isn’t the first time that a fast-food restaurant has tried implementing an AI drive-thru. In fact, McDonald’s has been attempting to implement this very technology since 2019, and it’s evident that the technology has a long way to go. Earlier this year, a number of customers shared their frustrating, hilarious, and frustratingly hilarious exchanges with the McDonald’s AI drive-thru, such as ordering one sweet tea, but getting rang up for nine.

So if you’re working at Wendy’s, McDonald’s, or whatever fast-food chain that decides to start implementing an AI drive-thru, it’s safe to say that you’re going to need to make sure the machine keeps running. In other words, we have a long way to go before the robots take over.

We’re just speculating here, but if AI drive-thru technology gets to the point where it can fully replace a human employee, then maybe companies like McDonald’s can finally free up some time to figure out how to fix the ice cream machine!