July 24, 2024
McDonald's Pumps Brakes on AI Drive-Thru Experiment

McDonald’s Pumps Brakes on AI Drive-Thru Experiment

McDonald’s has terminated its two-year collaboration with IBM, which involved testing AI technology for voice orders at drive-thru kiosks across more than 100 restaurants. By the end of next month, the fast-food giant plans to remove these AI systems, citing a shift in strategy to explore broader voice-ordering solutions.

Image: TechSpot

Mason Smoot, chief restaurant officer for McDonald’s USA, conveyed in an email obtained by Restaurant Business, “While there have been successes to date, we feel there is an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly.” The initiative aimed to enhance order speed, although its effectiveness remains uncertain.

Challenges and Public Feedback

Videos on TikTok highlight customer confusion and erroneous orders under the AI system. Instances range from receiving multiple unwanted items like sweet teas and butter packets, contrary to customer requests. Despite these public missteps, Smoot expressed optimism, mentioning plans to evaluate a future voice-ordering solution by year-end.

AI Expansion Efforts and Partnerships

IBM continues AI integration efforts with other chains like Wendy’s, Hardee’s, and Dunkin’ for drive-thru order automation. McDonald’s has demonstrated a sustained interest in AI technology, evident from its 2019 acquisition of AI firm Apprente aimed at accelerating order-taking processes. The same year, McDonald’s acquired Dynamic Yield, specializing in personalization and decision logic technology, and invested in Plexure, the vendor for its app.

Dynamic Yield’s technology recommends menu items based on factors such as time of day and weather conditions, which has proven effective in increasing customer spending. To bolster its AI capabilities further, McDonald’s has established McD Tech Labs, a new internal team, and plans to expand its presence in Silicon Valley by hiring additional engineers, data scientists, and technology experts.

Future Prospects and Strategic Decisions

Despite the setback with IBM’s AI technology, McDonald’s remains committed to leveraging advanced technologies to enhance customer experience and operational efficiency. The decision to discontinue the AI-driven drive-thru systems reflects McDonald’s proactive approach to refining and expanding its digital and technological initiatives in the competitive fast-food landscape.

McDonald’s will continue evaluating and evolving its technological strategies to meet customer expectations and operational goals effectively.

Image by Kelvin Stuttard from Pixabay

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