McDonald's ending AI drive-thru ordering

McDonald's had partnered with IBM on AI-powered automated order taking program

McDonald's has informed franchisees that it is ending an artificial intelligence drive-thru order taking program, a report says. 

In a message obtained by Restaurant Business magazine, McDonald’s USA Chief Restaurant Officer Mason Smoot said "after a thoughtful review, McDonald's has decided to end our current partnership with IBM on AOT [automated order taking] and the technology will be shut off in all restaurants currently testing it no later than July 26, 2024."

More than 100 McDonald’s locations were testing the technology, dating back to 2021, according to the magazine.

"While there have been successes to date, we feel there is an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly," Smoot reportedly added, noting that the company will make "an informed decision on a future voice ordering solution by the end of the year." 

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McDonald's drive-thru in Florida

A McDonald's drive-thru at a restaurant in Sanford, Florida. The company reportedly has announced that it is ending an AI drive-thru ordering program. (Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images / Getty Images)

McDonald's told FOX Business in a statement Monday that "The goal of the test was to determine if an automated voice ordering solution could simplify operations for crew and create a faster, improved experience for our fans.

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MCD MCDONALD'S CORP. 254.02 -0.77 -0.30%
IBM INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP. 182.77 +4.48 +2.51%

"Through our partnership with IBM, we have captured many learnings and feel there is an opportunity to explore voice-ordering solutions more broadly," the company continued. "After thoughtful review, McDonald’s has decided to end our current global partnership with IBM on AOT beyond this year. IBM remains a trusted partner and we will still utilize many of their products across our global system.

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McDonald's drive-thru in California

A drive-thru menu is seen at a McDonald's restaurant in California. McDonald's partnered with IBM for the AI program. (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images / Getty Images)

"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," McDonald's added. "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."

IBM told Restaurant Business that it "developed automated order taker technologies with McDonald’s to support the emerging use of voice-activated AI in restaurant drive-thrus." 

exterior of a Mcdonald's in california

McDonald's says it envisions AI being part of the company's future, according to Restaurant Business magazine. (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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"This technology is proven to have some of the most comprehensive capabilities in the industry, fast and accurate in some of the most demanding conditions," the company said in a statement. "While McDonald’s is reevaluating and refining its plans for AOT, we look forward to continuing to work with them on a variety of other projects."