"Clearly Not Satisfied": McDonald's Winds Down IBM's Drive-Thru AI Chatbot Test

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024 - 12:00 AM

"McDonald's essentially told operators that drive-thru AI is in its future. But it is clearly not satisfied with the one it has been testing," Jonathan Maze, editor-in-chief of Restaurant Business, wrote on X at the end of last week. 

Maze penned a note in Restaurant Business that revealed McDonald's is winding down its two-year artificial intelligence pilot test with an IBM chatbot at more than 100 restaurants. 

The Chicago-based fast-food giant is ending this test without any sort of expansion, according to an email sent to franchisees on Thursday. Restaurant Business has obtained a copy of that email.

But the company did not dismiss the prospect of drive-thru AI, suggesting that McDonald's plans to find a new partner for its automated order taking efforts. -Maze

Perhaps this is why McDonald's is ending the IBM AI drive-thru ordering partnership by the end of July... 

@themadivlog How did I end up a butter #fyp ♬ The Office - The Hyphenate
@typical_redhead_ I thought TikTok would appreciate this 💀 #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #comedy #fail ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys - Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

"While there have been successes to date, we feel there is an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly," Mason Smoot, chief restaurant officer for McDonald's USA, wrote in a message to operators, obtained by Restaurant Business. 

Smoot said, "After a thoughtful review, McDonald's has decided to end our current partnership with IBM on AOT and the technology will be shut off in all restaurants currently testing it no later than July 26, 2024."

He noted that the fast food chain will have "an informed decision on a future voice ordering solution by the end of the year."

McDonald's explained to Restaurant Business that its pilot test was to determine if chatbots could speed up drive-thru times: 

"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. 

"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."

In December, McDonald's announced a partnership with Google to deploy generative AI.

So, will a much wider rollout of the chatbots include Google AI technology?