McDonald’s halts AI ordering test in drive-thrus

Despite these setbacks, McDonald’s ongoing efforts to find scalable AI solutions underscore its forward-looking approach to enhancing operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.


McDonald’s has decided to discontinue the use of AI ordering technology that was being tested at over 100 drive-thru locations in the US. The company had collaborated with IBM to develop and test this AI-driven, voice-automated system. Despite this decision, McDonald’s remains committed to exploring AI solutions, noting that IBM will remain a trusted partner in other areas. The discontinuation of this specific technology is set to occur by 26 July 2024.

The partnership between McDonald’s and IBM began in 2021 as part of McDonald’s ‘Accelerating the Arches’ growth plan, which aimed to enhance customer experience through Automated Order Taking (AOT) technology. IBM highlighted the AOT’s capabilities as being among the most advanced in the industry, emphasising its speed and accuracy. Nonetheless, McDonald’s is reassessing its strategy for implementing AOT and intends to find long-term, scalable AI solutions by the end of 2024.

McDonald’s move to pause its AI ordering technology reflects broader challenges within the fast-food industry’s adoption of AI. Other chains like White Castle and Wendy’s have also experimented with similar technologies. However, these initiatives have faced hurdles, including customer complaints about incorrect orders due to the AI’s difficulty in understanding different accents and filtering out background noise. Despite these setbacks, the fast-food sector continues to push forward with AI innovations to improve operational efficiency and customer service.