Bacon ice-cream anyone? McDonald’s faulty AI withdrawn

  • McDonald’s stops using AI-powered ordering technology in its US drive-throughs due to frequent misinterpretations and customer dissatisfaction.
  • The technology, developed by IBM, was intended to streamline ordering but has resulted in viral videos showcasing comical mishaps.

What is on your mind when it comes to McDonald’s? Its hamburger? Or fried chips? Some people may come up with surprising answers like bacon ice cream. It is not the food chain’s latest product, but a mishap caused by its AI-powered ordering technology. For many customers, food is not the only thing they want from the food chain, but also its satisfying services. Yet, such a mishap has a negative impact on their experiences and may therefore lose some of the potential customers.
–Audrey Huang, BTW reporter

McDonald’s has scaled back its AI-driven ordering tech in US drive-throughs amid comedic missteps, pulling it from over 100 restaurants.

What happened

McDonald’s is pulling back on its AI-powered ordering technology in US drive-throughs following widespread amusement over its comedic missteps. Developed by IBM, the voice recognition software aimed to streamline ordering but proved unreliable, spawning viral videos of bizarre orders like bacon ice cream and excessive chicken nuggets. Initially trialed in 2019, the system’s rollout encountered significant hiccups, prompting McDonald’s to remove it from over 100 test restaurants by July’s end.

While ending its current partnership with IBM on Automated Order Taking (AOT), McDonald’s remains open to integrating similar tech in the future, aiming for scalable solutions by year-end. The move underscores ongoing debates about AI’s impact on jobs, challenging assumptions about automation’s straightforwardness versus practical application. Despite these setbacks, IBM remains optimistic about their technology‘s capabilities and intends to collaborate with McDonald’s on future endeavours. This development highlights the complexities of integrating AI into service industries while maintaining customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

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Why it’s important

The removal of AI-powered ordering technology from McDonald’s drive-throughs is significant as it reflects broader challenges in the integration of AI into service industries. Initially, concerns about AI revolved around job displacement, but the current issue highlights the complexity of replicating human interaction and understanding in AI systems. The viral videos not only demonstrate the technology’s limitations but also its potential to harm brand reputation and customer satisfaction. This case underscores the need for careful implementation of AI, ensuring that it enhances rather than detracts from the customer experience. Moreover, it raises questions about the readiness of AI for widespread deployment in customer-facing roles, suggesting that human oversight remains crucial for maintaining quality and trust in service interactions. The industry’s response to these challenges will influence future strategies in AI adoption, emphasising the need for robust testing and gradual integration to avoid similar setbacks.


Audrey Huang

Audrey Huang is an intern news reporter at Blue Tech Wave. She is interested in AI and startup stories. Send tips to

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