McDonald’s drive-thru AI knows what you want before you order
Implementing in-store touch screen ordering kiosks was only the beginning for McDonald’s in efforts to modernize its operations with technology. One of the chain’s recently announced experiments involves using artificial intelligence (AI) to enable the drive-thru to recommend what customers might want before they place an order.
At some locations, McDonald’s has been testing a solution that recognizes the license plate of a customer in the drive-thru and uses that information to provide AI-based recommendations of menu items, as reported by The New York Times. The technology (which requires permission from customers) takes into account the customer’s previous order history when populating suggestions on the drive-thru touchscreen.
The solution adds another element of personalization to the already dynamic new drive-thru touchscreen at some McDonald’s locations, which tailor product recommendations based on big-picture factors like weather, wait time and item popularity. McDonald’s says that recommendation algorithms have already demonstrated an unspecified increase in order size and the chain plans to roll them out to all its drive-thrus in the U.S. by the end of the year.
Utilizing technology to provide a better customer experience (and, some argue, to cut down on labor costs) is one of the major ways McDonald’s has attempted to keep pace in a restaurant landscape where fast food is less fashionable than it once was.
In June of 2018, McDonald’s announced a $6 billion chain-wide investment in upgrades, as Convenience Store News reported. The plan involved remodeling 1,000 stores each quarter for eight to nine quarters. The upgrades were designed to make all freestanding stores more amenable to features like mobile payment and pickup, while being distinguished by digital signage and dining areas more like fast-casual restaurants than traditional McDonald’s layouts.
McDonald’s has also been considering menu changes to better position itself against its competitors. This summer, a letter from a major McDonald’s franchisee group discussed the need for a chicken sandwich on par with popular chicken chain Chick-fil-A.
McDonald’s is not the only fast food chain making changes to the drive-thru to keep up with the technological curve. Chipotle recently announced the addition of mobile order-only “Chipotlanes” to its drive-thru, Business Insider reported.
- Would You Like Fries With That? McDonald’s Already Knows the Answer – The New York Times
- McDonald’s & Franchisees Investing $6B to Modernize Most U.S. Restaurants by 2020 – Convenience Store News
- Franchisees want McD’s to be more like Chick-fil-A – RetailWire
- A high-tech drive-thru renaissance is the future of fast food at chains like Chipotle and McDonald’s – Business Insider
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is offering predictive suggestions at the drive-thru a good way to upsell, and could other restaurants benefit from such an offering? Could privacy concerns surrounding the scanning and saving of license plate data make people less interested in interacting with McDonald’s via drive-thru?