Wendy’s CEO touts drive-thru deal with Google


Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Wednesday that the fast-food chain’s artificial intelligence partnership with Google is the “first step” toward additional technological changes at its restaurants.

Wendy’s and AlphabetGoogle, owned by Google, has been working to create an AI chatbot specifically designed for steering wheel controls. The Ohio-based burger chain will launch an AI drive-thru pilot program at multiple locations in the Columbus area starting in June, Penegor told Cramer.

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This new drive-thru feature aims to “remove the slowest point in the ordering process, speakerphone ordering,” to create a more enjoyable dining experience, the CEO said. “We are going to learn a lot. First step towards a lot of innovations”, he added.

Penegor underscored its commitment to modernizing Wendy’s over the coming quarters, emphasizing the desirability of digital menu boards, for example. Together, he said Wendy’s was trying to “drive the restaurant of the future” with these initiatives.

Penegor said another area of ​​opportunity lies in expanding Wendy’s store hours. “We’re going to lean in late at night,” he said. “We know we’ve under-indexed and have the opportunity to generate a lot of growth” by targeting the late-night crowd.

Earlier Wednesday, Wendy’s reported better-than-expected first-quarter results, with total revenue of $528.8 million, up 8.2% from the year-ago period. That’s compared to analysts’ consensus estimate of $522 million. The company’s earnings per share of 21 cents were 1 cent better than expected.

But despite the positive results, Wendy’s declined to raise its full-year forecast, which may have contributed to its stock falling about 2% to its low on Wednesday; but it closed 1% higher at $23.21.

Disclaimer: Jim Cramer’s Charitable Trust owns shares of Alphabet.

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