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McDonald's pauses its test on integrating AI into self-service machines

The fast food chain partnered with IBM in 2021 to implement this technology and accelerate its service and simplify operations.

Imagen de archivo de un restaurante de McDonald's en España en la que se ve una de las máquinas de autoservicio.

(Cordon Press)

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McDonald's momentarily paused the test it was carrying out on integrating artificial intelligence into its self-service machines. The fast food chain partnered with tech company IBM in 2021 with the aim of implementing this technology and accelerate services and simplify operations.

But it has not been that way. Three years after the tests began, the company assured that it will remove the machines that were in the more than 100 establishments that the company has in the country over the next month. The reason? According to McDonald's USA Restaurant Director Mason Smoot in an email accessed by Restaurant Business, the company wants to "explore voice ordering solutions more broadly":

While there have been successes to date, we feel there is an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly. 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.

However, CNN Español revealed that, in fact, what motivated the withdrawal of these machines could be that customers complained that this technology was getting orders wrong, given that it was not trained to recognize certain accents and was not able to distinguish the consumer's voice from background noise.

McDonald's will look for other ways to implement AI in its self-service machines

However, this will not stop McDonald's from continuing to look to A.I. to improve its self-service machines, and it will continue to partner with IBM, which it defined as a "trusted partner" whose products will continue to be part of the "global system" of the company:

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.

IBM also announced that it would look for other alternatives to implement artificial intelligence in self-service machines. According to the company in a statement, although it will continue to collaborate with McDonald's, it will also negotiate with other fast food companies to partner with and develop this technology:

IBM developed automated order taker technologies with McDonald’s to support the emerging use of voice-activated A.I. in restaurant drive-thrus. 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. 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.