McDonald’s Halts AI Ordering After Viral Errors

The fast food restaurant has decided not to continue the partnership with IBM, with 100+ restaurants removing the tech.

AI clearly isn’t ready for the dinner rush, with McDonald’s reportedly shutting down its AI ordering test after its errors went viral on social media.

While AI has provided a wide range of groundbreaking innovations, AI errors are equally well-known in 2024. Yes, the technology is still in its infancy, but the missteps have real world consequences that are impacting users in unforeseen ways.

Now, the biggest fast food restaurant in the world is removing its AI drive-thru voice ordering system, raising the question: will this tech ever be reliable enough to take over for humans?

McDonald’s Stops AI Ordering at 100+ Restaurants

According to an email sent to franchisees last week, McDonald’s is ending its AI ordering test, dubbed Automated Order Taker. The system, which launched in 2021, will be completely removed from more than 100 restaurants by the end of the month.

McDonald’s AI ordering test was born of a partnership with IBM, which saw drive-thru patrons requesting Big Macs and McNuggets via AI technology, rather than talking to a person.

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Unfortunately, the technology was far from perfect, with the system getting orders right about 85% of the time, but needing human intervention for approximately one in five orders, leading to the shutdown. Even worse, many of the errors went viral in 2023, highlighting that the technology simply isn’t ready for the big show.

Is AI Ordering at Fast Food Restaurants Dead?

When the largest fast food chain in the world gives up on AI, it might seem like a death rattle for the technology. After all, if a restaurant with nearly 42,000 locations can’t figure it out, what hope do the rest of us have?

However, McDonald’s has made it clear that they have confidence in the future of the technology. At least, that’s what the spokesperson says:

“As we move forward, our work with IBM has given us the confidence that a voice ordering solution for drive-thru will be part of our restaurants’ future. We see tremendous opportunity in advancing our restaurant technology and will continue to evaluate long-term, scalable solutions that will help us make an informed decision on a future voice ordering solution by the end of the year.” – McDonald’s spokesperson

On top of that, while McDonald’s is throwing in the towel for now, other fast food restaurants are reportedly giving the technology a try as well, including the popular chain Hardee’s.

AI Blunders Abound

If you’ve kept up with AI news over the last few years, you know that McDonald’s is far from the only company experiencing these AI failures in a major way.

Google, for example, has dialed back its AI Overview initiative, a system designed to provide in-depth overviews of search results to make finding your information easier. However, after the system started churning out answers like “adding glue to pizza can make it cheesier” and “a healthy diet consists of eating rocks,” the tech giant was forced to reevaluate.

Beyond that, AI errors have become as common as its successes at this point. Mistakes range from false accusations to inappropriate generated content, leading to real world consequences for the actual human beings that rely on it to get things done.

It remains to be seen whether or not AI is merely experience growing pains or if the technology really does have an informational plateau that prevents it from being trustworthy enough for sustain use. Either way, you’ll being ordering your next McDouble from a human being for the foreseeable future.

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Written by:
Conor is the Lead Writer for For the last six years, he’s covered everything from tech news and product reviews to digital marketing trends and business tech innovations. He's written guest posts for the likes of Forbes, Chase, WeWork, and many others, covering tech trends, business resources, and everything in between. He's also participated in events for SXSW, Tech in Motion, and General Assembly, to name a few. He also cannot pronounce the word "colloquially" correctly. You can email Conor at
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