Jun 25, 2024 551

"McDonald's Is Removing Its AI Drive-Thru Voice-Ordering System From Over 100 Restaurants After Its Mishaps Went Viral"


"McDonald's began using AI technology at its restaurants as early as 2019. "

The advent of generative AI was supposed to devastate jobs across industries, including restaurants. However, it turns out it's not quite there yet. McDonald's informed franchise operators on Thursday that it is removing AI order-taking technology from over 100 drive-thrus, marking the end of a test period conducted with IBM. A McDonald's spokesperson confirmed the decision to Business Insider, noting that customers were introduced to the technology in 2021 when McDonald's entered a global partnership with IBM.

Under this partnership, IBM acquired McD Tech Labs, which McDonald's created after taking control of the AI speech company Apprente in 2019. The two companies developed and deployed the technology during the test period to "determine if an automated voice ordering solution could simplify operations for crew and create a faster, improved experience for our fans." McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski told CNBC in June 2021 that voice-recognition technology was accurate about 85% of the time, but human staff had to assist with about one in five orders. The AI's failures, however, went viral online, with videos of drive-thru customers struggling to use the Automated Order Taker gaining attention on TikTok. Some customers reported that the technology messed up their orders, causing frustration and annoyance.

Despite the end of the partnership with IBM on the Automated Order Taker, McDonald's stated it would continue to explore how technology can improve its workflow. "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," McDonald's told Business Insider 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." IBM, in turn, stated that it would continue to work with McDonald's on other projects and mentioned that the technology is being piloted with several other Quick-Serve Restaurant clients interested in the Automated Order Taker technology.