Macca’s axes ‘wild’ new drive-through feature after order gaffes

McDonald’s plans to end its AI-powered automated experiment in the US after angry customers reported receiving items they didn’t order.

More than 100 restaurants have used robots to take orders after the American-born fast-food chain partnered with IBM in the pilot program two years ago.

But franchisees involved in the program were told the AI ​​process was coming to an abrupt end after a series of costly mistakes, New York Post reports.

The blunders included adding nine sweet teas to one customer’s order and giving another customer an ice cream cone topped with bacon.

McDonald’s informed franchisees in an email Thursday that the program will end on July 26, although it said it will likely reintroduce the use of AI at its drive-through windows sometime in the future, according to Business restaurant.

People are sharing McDonalds AI Drive-through failures

“While there have been successes to date, we believe there is an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly,” McDonald’s US restaurant director Mason Smoot said in the leaked email.

“After careful consideration, McDonald’s has decided to end our current partnership with IBM, and the technology will be turned off in all restaurants currently testing it by July 26, 2024.”

Mr Smoot added that the burger giant would continue to evaluate its plans to make “an informed decision on a future voice ordering solution by the end of the year”.

In February, a TikTok user known as “Ren” posted a video testimonial describing how crosstalk from a neighboring station led McDonald’s AI to add nine orders of sweet tea to her bill — instead of hash brown. , sweet tea and Coke he ordered.

Another user, Madilynn Cameron, posted a video showing her “fighting a McDonald’s robot” as she entered a drive-through and placed an order of vanilla ice cream without caramel – only for the machine to to add packets of cream instead.

“I just want a big water and a cup of ice cream,” she said in the clip. “Where did the butter come from?”

In January, Cailyn Sykora posted a TikTok showing off the AI-powered unit by adding more than 20 McNuggets Meal orders worth about $US222 (about $335).

“McDonald’s robot is wild,” the video’s caption read.

McDonald’s embrace of AI can be traced back to 2019, when it acquired start-up Apprente, which introduced AI-based voice solutions that can be used in customer service settings.

The Apprente acquisition was made with the goal of eventually implementing AI-based technology in restaurant locations to improve the speed and efficiency of order-taking.

McDonald’s then spun off Apprente into its own AI-focused division called McD Tech Labs. In 2021, McD Tech Labs was sold to IBM.

As part of the deal, IBM partnered with McDonald’s to expand automated AI-powered order placement.

McDonald’s said Business restaurant that the purpose of the pilot program was to test whether the new technology could speed up the direct ordering process.

The company said IBM will continue to be a “trusted partner and we will continue to use many of their products in our global system.”

“As we move forward, our work with IBM has given us confidence that a drive-through voice ordering solution will be part of the future of our restaurants,” McDonald’s said.

“We see tremendous opportunity in the development of our restaurant technology and will continue to evaluate long-term scalable solutions that will help us make an informed decision about a future voice ordering solution by the end of the year.”

An IBM spokesperson told the publication that it is in talks with other fast-food companies about implementing its AI-based technology.

“IBM has developed automated order-taking technologies with McDonald’s to support the emerging use of voice-activated AI in restaurants,” the company said in the statement.

“This technology has proven to have some of the most comprehensive capabilities in the industry, fast and accurate in some of the most demanding conditions.

IBM said that “as McDonald’s reevaluates and refines its plans for AOT, we look forward to continuing to work with them on a variety of other projects.”

The New York Post has also reached out to McDonald’s and IBM for comment.

Other fast food chains have also implemented AI technology to help streamline its customer service experience in the US.

Domino’s uses AI voice recognition to take orders, as well as machine learning algorithms to optimize delivery routes and times.

Starbucks put AI to work to personalize customer recommendations through its app.

While China’s KFC has started using AI software in its facial recognition technology at certain locations to help predict customer orders.

This article originally appeared on The New York Post and is reproduced with permission

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