The future is arriving fast at a handful of McDonald’s drive-thru lanes. The quick-service giant is testing automated voice-ordering technology at 10 stores in Chicago.
CEO Chris Kempczinski noted that the technology has 85 percent order accuracy, and only about 20 percent of orders need to be taken by employees, however, he also said not to expect the technology to spread nationwide anytime soon—the process will take more than a couple of years to deploy.
Operators across the industry have spent the past few years implementing automation to create a frictionless experience and reduce labour pressure in light of shortages. For example, several U.S brands such as Chili’s, Red Robin, and Applebee’s have leveraged tabletop technology to allow customers to pay themselves, freeing up front-of-house staff to focus on other duties.
McDonald’s isn’t a stranger to tech investments. In 2019, the burger brand announced that it acquired Apprente, an early-stage leader in voice-based, conversational technology. At the time, the company said the technology was tested in selected units and noted in a statement that, “this technology is expected to allow for faster, simpler, and more accurate order taking at the Drive-Thru with future potential to incorporate into mobile ordering and kiosks.”