McDonald's Will Use AI To Cater Drive-Thru Menus To You

Would you like a side of artificial intelligence with that?

McDonald's is up-sizing their effort to get you to up-size your order, dropping a reported US$300 million on a machine-learning startup company which uses artificial intelligence to personalise the customer experience.

The fast food giant announced this week that it's acquiring Dynamic Yield -- an Israeli startup which specialises in "decision logic" technology.

Essentially, when you pop something in your shopping cart, it's the system that gently suggests other items you might like based on what other customers have purchased.

The AI-driven tech, which comes as a part of McDonald's biggest acquisition to date, will make its first appearance at the drive-thru window.

The system will take into account factors such as whether, time, traffic levels, local events, historical sales data, what's currently popular and what you yourself are ordering in order to curate the drive-thru menu screens.

Oh, it's 40 degrees and sunny? How about a McFlurry? (If the machine is working).

"Part of the expectation here is that the customer experience through the drive-thru in particular is going to be much more personalised and targeted," expert in retail innovation and customer experience Associate Professor Sean Sands told 10 daily.

McDonald's is kicking off in the food industry the ultra-personalisation which has become the norm in online retail.

"Think about Amazon and online shopping, having your homepage you land on curated to you based on your past transactions or something the brand knows about you in particular," Sands said.

"With a chain like McDonald's with such a range of menu items, it kind of makes sense to digitize this."

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McDonald's tested the AI at several US restaurants last year and expects more than 1,000 locations will be using it within the next three months, executive vice president and global chief information officer Daniel Henry told Wired.

In time, it'll be found in the 14,000 US restaurants and beyond, potentially making a difference in-store, in the kitchens and on your phones.

Henry said in the future, it could even be extended to use licence plate recognition to identify specific customers as they pull into the drive-thru, adjusting the menu according to their own purchase history.

McDonald's serves about 69 million global customers a day, handing over somewhere close to 75 hamburgers every second.

There's every chance the new technology will lead to increased sales coming out of the drive-thru, Sands said, as menus anticipate what customer's might be lovin'.

But in terms of how it might change the customer experience in real time comes down to convenience.

"I think it'll work in terms of helping people making decisions more efficiently," Sands said.

"Think about it, if you have to have the entire menu up in front of you in small writing, as opposed to having it curated...There's one outcome which is just getting people through the drive-thru faster, reducing wait time for people in the car which reduces annoyance, anger, frustration."

Dynamic Yield will continue to operate as an independent company following the acquisition, with current clients including Ikea, Sephora and Urban Outfitters.