Recent News

Wendy’s Cooks Up New Experiences With AI, Cloud And Edge … – Forbes

Consumer behavior changed during the pandemic. Many of these changes were permanent and the market continues to evolve. Companies with customer-facing physical storefronts must blend digital and physical design to create leading customer experiences. Almost every organization embraced digital transformation to meet changing marketing demands. Today, The Wendy’s Company (Wendy’s), provides an example of how market leaders are focusing on digital acceleration. In 1969, Dave Thomas opened his first Wendy’s restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Today, the quick-service chain and its franchisees employ hundreds of thousands of people across approximately 7,000 restaurants worldwide.

Wendy’s was primarily a dining room and a drive-thru business until 2019. The COVID lockdowns forced Wendy’s, and many other companies, to embrace delivery services. The real question is what’s next for the industry?

In August of 2022, Wendy’s announced its new global restaurant design standard, Global Next Gen, to enhance the customer, crew, and digital experiences. Wendy’s new restaurant plans feature a sleek and modern design with an optimized layout and next-generation technology to deliver more convenience, speed, and accuracy. The Global Next Gen design offers new features such as mobile order parking, in-restaurant pick-up shelving, and a new dedicated delivery pick-up window. In response to the consumer digital demand, the new restaurants are designed to handle 400 times the digital capacity of Wendy’s current volume.

Abigail Pringle, Wendy’s International President, said the following about the design in a blog post ” Our analysis shows that Global Next Gen optimizes costs to build, which helps improve the rate of return for our franchise partners. It also touts an annual energy cost reduction of about six percent, which is a win for our franchisees and a win for the environment. The new design also provides demonstrated labor optimization improvements, which add up to valuable savings here as well.” Restaurants with the Global Next Gen design should open in early 2023.

Kevin Vasconi, the CIO of Wendy’s, shared his insights on the experience and technology advancements in an interview with Lopez Research. He said the company’s customer obsession led it to investigate new ways to address changing consumer behaviors. Wendy’s seeks to reimagine the restaurant experience for its customers, employees, and delivery partners by blending digital technology with modernized restaurant facilities. Changing how the delivery business operates within the context of physical restaurants provides one example of these changes. With the new Global Next Gen restaurant design, Wendy’s will add delivery driver parking spaces and a dedicated delivery pickup window. There’s also a mobile application that supports drivers checking in. The design enables customers and delivery drivers to grab meals more quickly and conveniently.

MORE FROMFORBES ADVISOR

Vasconi said, “For us, the goal is to build the greatest customer experience in each one of those touch points. We’ve also learned that customer behavior changes depending on the day. For example, a customer may be primarily a delivery customer but will dine in or use the drive-thru on certain days. How do we make the experience better for the customer, meeting them where they want to be met? We need to make sure each of those experiences (in-restaurant, drive-thru and delivery) is seamless while providing a consistency that delivers the Wendy’s brand experience.

Data, data, everywhere

Data is a plentiful but underutilized asset for most companies. However, data is at the center of Wendy’s vision for unlocking new customer, restaurant, or employee experiences. “The more we know about the customer, with their permission, the better Wendy’s can make their experience. We can reduce friction and deliver assistance. There are many dimensions to creating a customer experience in real-time. For example, the consumer may want their food as fast as possible or to review the menu and try something new. We must define if it is a speed, social, or shopping occasion,” said Vasconi.

Data is everywhere. The challenge is to collect and analyze it in an organized fashion. Vasconi shared that at a high level, Wendy’s looks at its data in two ways. The first requires defining how it will use data to enhance the customer experience and that includes removing friction. While the second looks at how Wendy’s uses data to improve operations for the restaurant team and franchise owners. For each use case, Wendy’s delivers different outcomes, such as more powerful business analytics, useful insights or 1:1 marketing and personalization. However, Vasconi says the underlying infrastructure to support these use cases is essentially the same.

The role of the cloud in customer experience

Wendy’s has hybrid cloud architecture. Like many companies, it has a substantial on-prem computing environment. Vasconi said, “It’s not a one size fits all solution. There’s a large desire to move everything to the cloud, and maybe eventually, we will. We do have a bias towards the cloud. When we build a new system, we build using mobile-first and cloud-first design criteria.”

Vasconi said the cloud brings speed and focus to its analytics efforts. The cloud allows Wendy’s to automatically provision the correct computing resources to match each restaurant’s requirements. “Infrastructure is no longer the longest lead time item. It could be design, data models, or governance strategies. Currently, Wendy’s partners with Google Cloud for data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and hybrid cloud tools.

The partnership allows Wendy’s to use Google’s pre-trained AI models out-of-the-box. Vasconi said, “It would take Wendy’s years to create this capability on our own. Pre-trained models are a great place to start. Even if these models don’t get you to 100 percent of your goal, the company is not starting from scratch. When you combine on demand infrastructure with pre-built AI models, we’re gaining acceleration. When you look at how you empower the business, acceleration is important because our franchisees want to respond to business issues and opportunities as they arise. They don’t want to wait a year and a half for an IT project to assist them.”

Edge computing gives customer experience a boost

There’s no doubt that Wendy’s has an enormous volume and variety of data distributed across many locations. Defining where and how to process data is key to its future success. Certain applications and workflows require real-time analytics, while others may take minutes or days. It’s essential to match the right computing resources to the speed required to deliver various experiences. Wendy’s calls these analytics in “relevant time”. It uses data streaming analytics to get the information to the decision makers as fast as possible or as fast as necessary because not all data needs to be instantaneous.

For a company with many distributed locations, such as Wendy’s, edge computing technology represents an opportunity to deliver new value. Vasconi said, “The holy grail of the QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) business is a point-of-sale system that can run in the cloud, at the restaurant, or on the edge because it gives us flexibility. We need that level of flexibility. My group supports 7,000 restaurants in urban and remote areas.”

Wendy’s needs reliable, high-speed internet connections and edge computing technology to support POS (point of sale), computer vision, and other upcoming requirements. He shared that Wendy’s has worked with Starlink for fixed wireless access in certain areas, and it has worked well. Vasconi said, “As we start looking at more AI technologies, whether that is AI-enabled voice or computer vision in the restaurants, Wendy’s will need to add edge computing power. And the question is, where do you want to perform those computations? The point-of-sale system in a restaurant was designed to collect and process orders, not perform AI functions. And most importantly, how do I make that a good experience for the customer and the employees?” For those AI applications, it makes more sense for Wendy’s to add edge computing within the restaurants. It’s also working with Google’s Anthos to explore AI edge use cases.

Designing the team

When asked about a lesson learned during the project, Vasconi responded, “Innovation is a team sport. The type of innovation that will set us apart from the competition requires a team. Our restaurant design is an instantiation of that. We didn’t start it as a technology project or an operations project. We brought together a cross-functional team, which is how breakthrough innovation happens. If you get it right, it’s magical.

What are the early takeaways from Wendy’s Global Next Gen project? As we embrace digital acceleration, we must reimagine the experience. A company can’t simply digitize existing workflows. Organizations need to leverage technology to create, empower and scale new experiences. To do this, businesses must build a cross-functional team representing all constituents to improve insight and usability. A company must also embed technology into the design early, rather than try to add it into a nearly complete project. Most importantly, Vasconi shared a comment that everyone should take note of when he described the need to constantly evolve. He said, “We’ve made significant headway, but we have a long way to go. You’re never done because the consumer is going to continue to change. Change is the only constant force.”

Wendy’sWendy’s Unveils New Global Restaurant Design Standard
This UrIoTNews article is syndicated fromGoogle News

About Post Author