"You won’t know you’re talking to anybody but an employee."
Fries With That?
Wendy's is the latest fast food chain to get in on the AI craze. The company has announced that it will let an AI chatbot take customer orders at the drive-thru window.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Ohio-based company will be introducing an AI chatbot, developed by Google's cloud-computing division, to one of its Columbus locations as it tests out whether the technology can help "streamline" its business.
While we don't know much about the chatbot yet, including how much it costs or what kind of interface it will use, a glib comment from Wendy's CEO Todd Penegor reveals the dystopian undertones of the whole endeavor.
"It will be very conversational," Penegor told the Journal. "You won’t know you’re talking to anybody but an employee."
As if that wasn't creepy enough, the timing of this announcement could also be telling given that in January, Wendy's announced that it is "restructuring" its business and that layoffs were possible.
Heading off concerns that Wendy's may seek to replace workers with AI, Penegor told the WSJ that AI is not going to replace workers but will instead help them do their jobs better. The argument echoes those being made by other CEOs across industries as they rush to cut costs while still investing big in AI.
This isn't the first time a fast-food joint has tried this kind of scheme.
Earlier this year, Insider reported on a viral trend where people filmed their hilariously bad interactions with the chatbots that have been taking orders at a select number of McDonald's drive-thrus. Some of these customers ended up getting bags of random packs of butter and ketchup without ever asking for them.
The takeaway: AIs may not be not ready to replace human labor at the drive-thru lane and could cause more chaos instead of actually supporting employees.
To get ahead of any stand-offs at the checkout, Wendy's is having an employee oversee interactions between customers and AI — which might be a wise decision.
"You may think driving by and speaking into a drive-through is an easy problem for AI, but it’s actually one of the hardest," Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud, who is working on the project, told the WSJ.
Nevertheless, as CEOs keep trying to find new ways to shoehorn AI tech into their products to appease investors, customers will likely have to interact with a chatbot in one way or another in the near future — whether they like to or not.
More on machine labor: Self-Checkout Machines Ridiculed for Asking for Tips