No More Robot Orders: McDonald’s Shuts Down AI Drive-Thru Service!

  • Editor
  • June 18, 2024
    Updated
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McDonald’s is taking a step back from artificial intelligence at its drive-thrus. The fast-food giant has ended its two-year partnership with IBM, which involved testing AI to take voice orders at over 100 restaurants.

This technology will be removed by the end of next month. Mason Smoot, Chief Restaurant Officer for McDonald’s USA, noted in an email that while there were successes, there is an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly.

This is what people have to say about McDonald’s decision!

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McDonald’s introduced AI into the order-taking process to speed up customer turnaround times, but it’s unclear if this goal was achieved.

The company plans to make an informed decision on a future voice-ordering solution by the end of the year and remains optimistic despite some public missteps.

“As we move forward, our work with IBM has given us the confidence that a voice ordering solution for drive-thru will be part of our restaurants’ future,” the company said in a statement.

We see tremendous opportunity in advancing our restaurant technology and will continue to evaluate long-term, scalable solutions that will help us make an informed decision on a future voice ordering solution by the end of the year.”

 

The AI system faced backlash due to its inability to accurately process orders, leading to viral TikTok videos where customers received incorrect items such as nine sweet teas or bacon on ice cream.

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The AI’s frequent errors necessitated human intervention, undermining its intended efficiency gains. Issues included recognizing different accents and distinguishing customer voices from background noise, resulting in an 85% accuracy rate and requiring manual correction for one in five orders.

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Despite ending the IBM partnership, McDonald’s stated that IBM remains a trusted partner and the company will continue to explore future AI applications.

“IBM also is now in discussions and pilots with several Quick-Serve Restaurant clients who are interested in the AOT technology,” the company said in a statement.

 

McDonald’s has had a long-standing interest in AI, acquiring the AI firm Apprente in 2019 to speed up order-taking and Dynamic Yield to boost customer spending through personalized menu recommendations.

McDonald’s formed McD Tech Labs and plans to expand its presence in Silicon Valley, hiring more engineers, data scientists, and tech experts.

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Other fast-food chains are also experimenting with AI. Wendy’s, Hardee’s, and Dunkin’ are working with IBM on AI drive-thru orders. White Castle is testing AI from SoundHound, and Carl’s Jr. and others use AI chatbots supported by human workers in the Philippines.

McDonald’s itself is exploring a potential partnership with Google, which was announced in December, to develop a chatbot named “Ask Pickles” for employee guidance.

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This AI drive-thru test is part of McDonald’s broader efforts to automate tasks, including mobile ordering, in-store kiosks, drone deliveries, kitchen robots, and AI hiring tools.

The fast-food industry sees AI as a way to reduce labor costs and improve operational efficiency, but current technological limitations and customer dissatisfaction show that there is still a long way to go.

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McDonald’s remains committed to advancing its restaurant technology and will continue to evaluate scalable solutions for a future voice-ordering system.

For more news and trends, visit AI News on our website.

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Dave Andre

Editor

Digital marketing enthusiast by day, nature wanderer by dusk. Dave Andre blends two decades of AI and SaaS expertise into impactful strategies for SMEs. His weekends? Lost in books on tech trends and rejuvenating on scenic trails.

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