McDonald’s buys AI tech to automatically adjust drive-thru menu

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American fast food chain McDonald’s has bought an AI machine-learning company that will automatically change its drive-thru menu panels depending on factors such as weather, time, restaurant traffic and trends.

The technology means that it could suggest McFlurry ice cream products on hot days, or show what is popular at that particular restaurant at the moment.

It can also come up with instant suggestions based on what the customer has already ordered.

McDonald’s is acquiring Israeli startup Dynamic Yield for a reported 300,000 dollars (£227,000) after a trial in some US restaurants last year.

McDonald's
The technology will display suggestions based on the customer’s order (McDonald’s)

“Technology is a critical element of our Velocity Growth Plan, enhancing the experience for our customers by providing greater convenience on their terms,” said Steve Easterbrook, president and chief executive of McDonald’s.

“With this acquisition, we’re expanding both our ability to increase the role technology and data will play in our future and the speed with which we’ll be able to implement our vision of creating more personalised experiences for our customers.”

The restaurant chain is also working on implementing the same system into its self-order kiosks and ordering app.

Easterbrook indicated that the system could be used to recognise a customer’s licence plate as they approach, adjusting the menu to show products based on their previous purchases.

McDonald's
(Yui Mok/PA)

“We will be very sensitive as we learn, as we go forward,” Mr Easterbrook said in an interview with Wired.

The global giant is planning to roll out the technology to drive-thru restaurants in the US in 2019, before expanding to “other top international markets”.

Dynamic Yield, which has worked with the likes of Ikea, Office and William Hill, will remain a standalone company upon completion of the deal.

Chris Price
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