HomeWinBuzzer NewsMcDonald’s Ends AI Drive-Thru Tests with IBM

McDonald’s Ends AI Drive-Thru Tests with IBM

McDonald's has given no reason for ending its three-year deal with IBM, but a potential partnership with Google could be important,

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McDonald's has pulled the plug on its AI drive-thru pilot with IBM, according to a report from Restaurant Business. This testing phase, initiated in 2021 at over 100 outlets, aimed at enhancing service speed and efficiency through AI chatbot technology.

The AI chatbot designed for drive-thru orders was part of McDonald's initiative to streamline operations and curtail waiting periods. Franchisees have been notified that this partnership will end by July 26, 2024. Reasons for the termination were not provided, but McDonald's still sees potential in voice-ordering solutions for its outlets.

Exploring New Partnerships

McDonald's is now considering other AI partners. Last December, the company hinted at a possible collaboration with Google, which is trialing a chatbot named “Ask Pickles” to help employees with tasks like cleaning ice cream machines. 's AI technology is also being tested by Wendy's for drive-thru orders, indicating McDonald's might follow suit.

The use of AI is becoming more prevalent in the fast-food sector. White Castle is experimenting with AI from SoundHound, while Carl's Jr. and Hardee's deploy AI manned by workers in the Philippines. McDonald's has been exploring various technologies, including mobile ordering, in-store kiosks, drone deliveries, kitchen robots, and AI-based recruitment tools.

Impact on Franchisees and Future Plans

McDonald's will dismantle the AI order systems from over 100 US locations. Specific reasons for ending the trial have not been publicly disclosed, according to Restaurant Business. A McDonald's spokesperson stated that the decision on automated orders would be made by the end of the year and affirmed that voice-ordering solutions would remain part of the drive-thru strategy.

The increasing AI focus in fast food comes partly as a response to surging labor costs, amplified by new wage laws like California's mandatory minimum wage for fast-food employees. There have been instances of AI errors, capturing public attention through viral videos and media reports.

Some AI systems require outsourced human labor for optimal performance. Presto Automation Inc, an AI service provider for fast-food chains, revealed in an SEC filing that it employs staff primarily in the Philippines to support about 70% of customer interactions.

Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke has been writing about all things tech for more than five years. He is following Microsoft closely to bring you the latest news about Windows, Office, Azure, Skype, HoloLens and all the rest of their products.