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Automation is Accelerating Drive-Thru Service at McDonald’s and White Castle

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Drive-thru service has become much more popular at quick-service restaurants during the pandemic. This has made it more important for brands to cut down on the amount of time customers spend in their cars, waiting for their order. According to CNN Business, McDonald’s has cut its drive-thru service time by approximately 30 seconds per customer over the past couple of years.

The famous chain has achieved this goal through steps such as having a simpler menu. But more recently, it cut its all-day breakfast offerings and grilled-chicken sandwiches. It also started the deployment of technology that includes artificial intelligence devices that can scan license plates — with the clients’ permission — to predict orders and mobile orders that can be picked up at the drive-thru window.

“A machine can actually have a consistent greeting and remain calm under pressure.”

According to CNN Business, McDonald’s also utilized technology from two companies that it acquired: Apprente, which built voice technology for fast-food order taking, and Dynamic Yield, which can customize ordering on digital menu boards. “Humans sometimes forget to greet people, they forget, they make mistakes, they don’t hear as well,” McDonald’s Chief Digital Customer Engagement Officer Lucy Brady told the site. “A machine can actually have a consistent greeting and remain calm under pressure.”

Dynamic Yield’s order suggestion technology — which can suggest regional items to customers in specific locations — has been implemented at McDonald’s drive-thrus and indoor ordering kiosks throughout the country. The company also is testing the automated ordering technology at a few restaurants in the Chicago area, Brady told CNN Business. “We’re really looking systematically at that customer experience and thinking, ‘Where can technology make this better and easier and faster?'” she added.

CNN Business reports that other chains are testing AI tools, including White Castle, which started using an automated ordering system at a drive-thru in Merrillville, Ind. Its AI voice system takes orders, makes suggestions, and considers the weather and time of day. The company also uses a camera for license-plate recognition to personalize orders.

According to Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Jamie Richardson, this is intended to keep the customers coming back. “The thought is to make sure that it’s friendly. ‘They remember me, they know who I am,'” he told CNN Business.

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