McDonald's is testing automated drive-thrus that can recognize your voice. The tech mostly gets orders right - but employees have to step in 20% of the time.

McDonald's is testing automated drive-thrus that can recognize your voice. The tech mostly gets orders right - but employees have to step in 20% of the time.
McDonald's CEO Chris KempczinskiAP Photo/Richard Drew
  • McDonald's is using voice recognition tech at 10 Chicago drive-thrus to take orders, CNBC reported.
  • CEO Chris Kempczinski said the tech got it right about 85% of the time.
  • McDonald's has trained employees to stop jumping in to help customers, he said.

McDonald's is testing voice recognition software in 10 of its Chicago drive-thrus so it can automate orders, CNBC reported.

Restaurants reported about 85% accuracy in the software recognizing orders, and staff had to step in for around one in five orders, company CEO Chris Kempczinski said Wednesday at Alliance Bernstein's Strategic Decisions conference, per CNBC.

The fast food giant bought Apprente, an AI voice-recognition technology, in 2019 for an undisclosed amount. McDonald's said at the time that it planned to use the system for faster, more accurate ordering at drive-thrus, and started testing it in 2019. It also started testing robotic fryers.
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Kempczinski said that the company had trained workers to stop them jumping in to take orders, per CNBC.

But the company is unlikely to implement the software across all of its restaurants anytime soon.

"Now there's a big leap from going to 10 restaurants in Chicago to 14,000 restaurants across the U.S., with an infinite number of promo permutations, menu permutations, dialect permutations, weather - and on and on and on," Kempczinski said, per CNBC.
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Competitor Burger King had also changed its drive-thrus, adding new lanes to speed up orders and pick-ups, and a conveyor belt that delivers orders to customers' cars.

McDonalds did not immediately respond to Insider for comment.
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