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McDonald’s AI drive-thru experiment with IBM comes to an end

McDonald's recently told franchises that they are not going to be partnering with IBM for their ts AI drive-thru ordering partnership after July 26th.
UPDATED JUN 21, 2024
Cover Image Source: A sign stands outside of a McDonald's restaurant | Getty Images | Photo by Justin Sullivan
Cover Image Source: A sign stands outside of a McDonald's restaurant | Getty Images | Photo by Justin Sullivan

News about McDonald's collaborating with IBM for their AI drive-thru experiment had been floating around for quite some time. However, fresh reports suggest that the company is halting the program, at least for the time being. McDonald's recently told franchises that they are not going to be partnering with IBM for their AI drive-thru ordering partnership after July 26.

So, what happened with the tech giant and the fast food joint? Turns out that the tech was a tad bit controversial and the automated order-taking with IBM received scores of complaints from customers who said that the chatbot misunderstood their orders. 

Franchise Pexels | By Franchise
Franchise Pexels | By Franchise

In a recent video, Mike Haracz (@chefmikeharacz), a former McDonald’s corporate chef called McDonald’s AI experiment a "disaster." "If you did not know," Haracz said, "McDonald’s has been testing IBM’s chatbot feature in their drive-thru for automatic order taking." "I cannot imagine how much money, time, and effort was put into [this]," he said in the video. Another content creator Levi, talked about how part of the blame has to go to IBM." In his video, he talked about other partnerships which are working fine. "If you’re considering using AI in a public-facing style, you’re going to need to have humans to check and recheck its work," he said in the video.

Image Source: Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi | Getty Images
Image Source: Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi | Getty Images

The Automated Order Taker that was started back in 2021 will be shut off post July 26. "While there have been successes to date, we feel there is an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly,” said the franchisee memo from Mason Smoot, senior vice president and chief restaurant officer for McDonald’s U.S. "After thoughtful review, McDonald’s has decided to end our current partnership with IBM on AOT. IBM remains a trusted partner and we will continue to utilize many of their other products across our system," Smoot said, via CNBC.

While McDonald's is taking a step back many other restaurants are continuing to test various ways in which AI can be used to streamline the operations. However, in another statement, the food giant said that they still see opportunity.  "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."

Meanwhile, IBM is also discussing pilot offers with Quick-Serve Restaurant clients who are interested in the AOT technology. Other notable collaborations in the fast-food industry include Wendy's partnership with Google Cloud for developing "Wendy's FreshAI" White Castle's initiative with SoundHound AI will be focusing on using "Tori" voice assistant.

The shutting off of this program doesn't imply that McDolands is done exploring different avenues when it comes to AI. While the company has declined to comment on the automated order taker's accuracy, it says that it will be partnering with IBM for other projects in the future.

gtbear | TikTok
gtbear | TikTok

IBM on the other hand will continue working with quick-serve restaurants and help them develop their operational technology. While this partnership may have come to an end, the potential of AI when it comes to the food industry is endless, and while we do not know what the future holds, we are certain that AI is going to be a huge part of this industry.

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