McDonald's to end AI drive-thru experiment by late July, company says

McDonald's will stop using artificial intelligence to take drive-thru orders by the end of July to figure out a "future voice ordering solution by the end of the year," according to multiple reports.

McDonald’s USA Chief Restaurant Officer Mason Smoot told franchisees in a memo obtained by CNBC, "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."

Pictured is a McDonald's drive-thru in New Jersey.
Pictured is a McDonald's drive-thru in New Jersey.

The fast food chain partnered with IBM in 2021 to test-run the AI ordering technology at over 100 McDonald's locations, CNBC and Fox Business reported.

"While there have been successes to date, we feel there is an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly,” Smoot's memo said, per CNBC. “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.”

USA TODAY contacted McDonald's on Monday but has not yet heard back.

Why did McDonald's try AI drive-thru order taking?

McDonald's began testing AI drive-thru ordering to "determine if an automated voice ordering solution could simplify operations for crew and create a faster, improved experience," according to a statement obtained by Fox Business.

"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," the chain's statement continued, per Fox Business. "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 "developed automated order taker technologies with McDonald’s to support the emerging use of voice-activated AI in restaurant drive-thrus," the technology company told Restaurant Business Magazine.

"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," IBM said in the 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."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: McDonald's AI drive-thru order test with IBM to end, company says