Mc Donald’s AI Drive-Thru Experiment with IBM Comes to A Close!

McDonald’s has decided to end its global partnership with IBM, which has been testing AI-powered drive-thru technology at select locations since 2021. Despite this decision, McDonald’s remains optimistic about the future of voice-ordering solutions.

The fast food giant announced this week that while its collaboration with IBM will conclude, it is not ruling out future AI implementations. “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 stated. The company aims to make an informed decision on a new voice-ordering solution by the end of the year.

Numerous fast food chains have been exploring AI to maximize speed and cut costs. For instance, Wendy’s partnered with Google Cloud for the “Wendy’s FreshAI” chatbot, and White Castle teamed up with SoundHound AI to bring voice-powered technology to over 100 restaurants by the end of 2024. McDonald’s, too, has been part of this trend, although their AI drive-thru experiment faced challenges.

The AI-powered order taker developed with IBM encountered issues, including difficulties in understanding different accents and dialects, leading to numerous customer complaints. Instances of the AI misunderstanding orders, such as repeatedly adding chicken nuggets or incorrectly combining items, were frequently documented on social media.

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Despite these setbacks, both IBM and McDonald’s maintain that their AI partnership has provided valuable insights. While McDonald’s will cease using the automated order technology by July 26, 2024, the company will continue utilizing many of IBM’s products. Additionally, McDonald’s has entered a multi-year partnership with Google Cloud to integrate generative AI across its operations further.

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