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McDonald’s Halts AI Drive-Thru Ordering Tests, Seeks New Partners

A modern fast-food drive-thru with McDonald's branding, showcasing an AI chatbot taking orders. The scene includes a drive-thru menu board with a digital interface and a car at the order station. In the background, McDonald's employees interact with the technology. Subtle elements such as the IBM logo and a futuristic AI icon are incorporated. The atmosphere is busy and innovative, reflecting the integration of AI technology in fast-food service

McDonald’s Halts AI Drive-Thru Ordering Tests, Seeks New Partners

McDonald’s has decided to end its AI chatbot-based drive-thru ordering program, at least for now. The company is seeking other partners for its AI initiatives, indicating that the current solution didn’t meet their expectations.

End of IBM Partnership

McDonald’s informed franchisees that it will be winding down its AI drive-thru ordering partnership with IBM by July 26th, 2024, as reported by trade publication Restaurant Business. The AI system, which has been in testing at over 100 locations since 2021, will be removed from these restaurants. While the company did not specify the reasons for ending the IBM deal, it mentioned that the test aimed to evaluate if the voice ordering chatbot could speed up service. Despite the discontinuation, McDonald’s remains confident that voice-ordering solutions will play a role in its future operations.

Exploring Other AI Solutions

One potential future direction for McDonald’s could involve its recent partnership with Google. Announced in December, this deal includes a chatbot named “Ask Pickles” designed to assist employees with tasks such as cleaning ice cream machines. Google has already partnered with Wendy’s to test drive-thru AI, which has since expanded.

Other fast-food chains are also experimenting with AI. White Castle is testing AI from speech recognition company SoundHound, while Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, and others are using an AI drive-thru chatbot supported by remote human workers in the Philippines, as revealed in an SEC filing.

Broader Automation Efforts

McDonald’s interest in AI extends beyond drive-thru ordering. The company is exploring various automation technologies to enhance customer experience and operational efficiency. These include mobile ordering, in-store kiosks, drone deliveries, kitchen robots, and even AI hiring tools. These initiatives reflect the company’s commitment to integrating advanced technology into its operations.


McDonald’s decision to halt its AI drive-thru ordering tests with IBM marks a shift in its approach to automation. While the company seeks new partners, it continues to explore various AI and automation technologies to streamline operations and improve service delivery. The future of AI in McDonald’s drive-thrus remains open, with potential collaborations on the horizon.