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McDonald’s Taps Generative AI as Restaurants Turn to Automation

McDonald's

McDonald’s is tapping Google Cloud’s generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools as restaurants increasingly integrate the technology into more parts of their business. 

The quick-service restaurant (QSR) giant announced Wednesday (Dec. 5) a strategic partnership with the tech provider, through which McDonald’s aims to leverage the power of generative AI and cloud technology to make operations more efficient and to improve the customer experience. The company intends to use the technology for back-of-house tasks and, starting next year, to deploy new software for its digital platforms. 

“The restaurant industry is already benefiting from these advances, and we’re excited to see how McDonald’s will use our generative AI, cloud, and edge computing tools to improve their iconic dining experience for their employees and their customers all over the world,” Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet, said in a statement.

Generative AI is coming to play an increasing role in the restaurant industry. For instance, as of August, Uber is reportedly testing out an AI chatbot for its food delivery service, Uber Eats, which will assist users in finding relevant restaurant dishes in an effort to personalize customer recommendations. Similarly, DoorDash is trying out an AI-based chatbot in select markets to enhance ordering.

Indeed, consumers are open to these kinds of innovations. According to the September edition of PYMNTS Intelligence’s “Consumer Inflation Sentiment Report,” titled “Consumers Know What AI Is — Not How It’s Integrated Into Their Daily Lives,” which drew from a survey of more than 2,300 U.S. consumers, 58% of participants had received AI-powered recommendations from a food delivery service.

Additionally, restaurants are increasingly tapping generative AI for more efficient voice ordering capabilities. Wendy’s announced earlier this year that it was working with Google Cloud to leverage the latter’s generative AI and large language models to automate the drive-thru ordering process.

Plus, on Thursday (Dec. 7), voice AI company SoundHound announced the acquisition of restaurant AI solution provider SYNQ3 in an effort to expand its deployment of generative AI to more restaurants. Last month, meanwhile, restaurant voice AI company ConverseNow shared on LinkedIn that it is partnering with online ordering company ItsaCheckmate for generative-AI-powered order taking.

Plus, according to data highlighted in the October edition of the Digital-First Banking Tracker® Series Report, “The Restaurant of the Future Is Open. Will Diners Bite?” QSRs anticipate that the majority (51%) of tasks will be automated by 2025.

“In the next decade, we believe that restaurant brands will drive fast-paced growth by owning the experience in new ways,” Jessica Bryan, vice president of marketing at NCR, commented in the report. “… Advances in digital and automation technology can help liberate restaurant staff from manual tasks, which not only makes their jobs easier and more enjoyable but also gives them more quality time to interact with guests.”

Indeed, merchants are turning to generative AI more and more to improve their operations, offer new consumer-facing features, and lower their labor costs, as a study featured in the latest installment of PYMNTS’ “Generative AI Tracker®,” “What Generative AI Has in Store for the Retail Industry,” created in collaboration with AI-ID, found. The results revealed that 78% of business leaders rank generative AI as the most impactful emerging technology over the next 3-5 years.