If you haven't noticed already, McDonald's is getting techier by the day. Their fancy ordering kiosks have been filling locations globally and now they are looking to automate the drive-thru experience. It has entered into a strategic partnership with IBM in an effort to accelerate the development of automated drive-thru lanes.
Under the agreement, IBM will acquire McD Tech Labs, which has been working to develop, test and deploy an automated ordering system using artificial intelligence-enabled voice recognition. McD Tech Labs was created following the fast food chain's acquisition of Apprente in 2019. ~100 employees will leave McDonald's to work for IBM, as part of the deal.
McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski announced in June that the AI technology was being piloted at around 10 drive-thrus in the Chicago area and that the system could fulfill customer orders with 85% accuracy with workers having to step in for approximately 1 in 5 orders.
McDonald's has no plans of becoming a tech company itself. Kempczinski said that McDonald's would not go into the business of competing with tech companies. "If we do acquisitions, it will be for a short period of time, bring it in-house, jumpstart it, turbo it and then spin it back out and find a partner who can kind of take that work and scale it for us."
Short Squeez Takeaway: The development and testing of new tech in restaurants has shown substantial benefits to customers and the restaurant crew experience. At this rate, it seems like it's only a matter of time before McDonald's can remove a majority of its workforce in restaurants.