McDonald’s Ends AI Drive Thru Test

McDonald’s is making some big changes in 2024, from opening thousands of new restaurants to upgrading their egg quality. However, there’s another major shift that will affect the customer’s drive-thru experience.

According to Restaurant Business Magazine, McDonald’s is ending its AI drive-thru test with IBM. This technology, which uses a voice bot instead of a human employee to take orders, is currently in use at over 100 locations. However, McDonald’s, always putting the customer first, has decided to shut it down at all of these locations by the end of next month.

So, while you might enjoy some new menu upgrades, you will soon be interacting with people instead of robots when you order at the drive-thru.

Customer’s Experience with Mcdonald’s AI Drive Thru Test

McDonald’s began implementing AI technology in drive-thru lanes in 2021. CEO Chris Kempczinski mentioned that the system was about 85% accurate and could handle 80% of orders. However, for some customers, the AI voice bots made ordering more confusing and tedious.

Over the past few years, several TikTok videos have gone viral, showing amusing and perplexing encounters with the AI ordering system. In one video from November 2022, TikToker Madilynn Cameron asked for water and a cup of vanilla ice cream. Still, the AI bot bizarrely added ketchup packets and butter to her order.

@typical_redhead_ I thought TikTok would appreciate this 💀 #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #comedy #fail ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

Another video from January 2023 of fellow TikToker @typical_redhead_, showed a glitchy AI drive-thru adding hundreds of dollars worth of Chicken McNugget meals to someone’s order.

These funny yet frustrating experiences highlight some of the challenges McDonald’s faced with their AI drive-thru experiment. McDonald’s understands the importance of a smooth and efficient ordering process, and these challenges have been a learning experience for them.

McDonald’s to Discontinue AI Drive Thru Collaboration With IBM

McDonald’s to Discontinue AI Drive Thru Collaboration With IBM

McDonald’s Chief Restaurant Officer Mason Smoot announced the end of their partnership with IBM on Automated Order Taker (AOT) technology by July 26, 2024. The decision was made after careful consideration of customer feedback and the need to ensure a seamless and accurate ordering experience.

Despite their achievements, they are looking into further voice-ordering solutions and want to decide on a new system before the end of the year.

Since 2021, McDonald’s has been testing drive-thru voice AI following the sale of McD Tech Labs to IBM. The aim was to streamline service and operations through automated voice ordering.

McDonald’s emphasized IBM remains a valued partner, and they will continue using IBM products globally. They are confident voice order will play a role in their future, committing to advancing restaurant technology with scalable solutions. 

IBM, known for its robust automated order-taker technology, expressed readiness to collaborate with other fast-food chains despite McDonald’s shift in strategy.

While other chains adopt drive-thru AI to automate tasks and potentially reduce staffing needs. McDonald’s approach remains cautious, balancing innovation with concerns over order accuracy.

Nevertheless, McDonald’s is optimistic about integrating voice-activated AI into their drive-thru operations with a different partner moving forward.

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