McDonald's Removes AI Drive-Thru Order System

McDonald's is removing its Automated Order Taker technology, which used AI in drive-thrus to expedite orders. 

A McDonald's spokesperson confirmed the decision to Business Insider in a statement, saying customers were introduced to the technology at about 100 locations in 2021 when McDonald's entered a global partnership with IBM. 

Videos showing flaws with the technology went viral in 2023.

“Videos of drive-thru customers struggling to use the Automated Order Taker first gained attention on TikTok last year,” according to Business Insider. “Some customers said that the technology messed up their orders, causing frustration and annoyance. One video showed a woman attempting to order water and a cup of vanilla ice cream. The AI system accounted for those items but incorrectly added four ketchup packets and three butter packets to her order. In another video, a TikTok user said she ordered one large cup of sweet iced tea, but the AI-powered technology added nine cups of iced sweet tea instead.”



McDonald's will continue to partner with IBM in other areas.

“Other fast-food chains, including Chipotle, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, are testing bots in their kitchens and at cash registers to save on labor costs,” according to CBS News. “Chipotle has opened at least 500 digital drive-thru ‘Chipotlane’ restaurants since 2018. It has also tested AI in kitchens with ‘Chippy,’ a robotic kitchen assistant that can make tortilla chips.”

Yum Brands'-owned Taco Bell and Pizza Hut restaurants are also placing big bets on AI, its tech chief Joe Park told the Wall Street Journal in April. "A lot of that gets automated in the future, where you don't have to interface directly with the technology," he told the WSJ. "You can do it through generative AI."

McDonald’s says its 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 says.“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 company added.

Restaurants are using robots to handle mundane human tasks amid rising labor costs.

“Chipotle, White Castle, and Sweetgreen are using robots to prepare salads, fries, and chips,” according to MSN.  “A fully automated burger restaurant debuts this month in Southern California. Restaurant automation is moving to the back of the house, where robots can be found flipping burgers, cooking fries, and assembling mega-size salads and bowls.”

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