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  • Writer's pictureFrederick L Shelton

Afraid AI Will Replace You? It Can't Even Work at McDonald's!




McDonald's, the fast-food behemoth, has been on the cutting edge of innovation for decades. From the introduction of the drive-thru to the iconic Happy Meal, McDonald's has consistently found ways to stay ahead of the curve. Recently, they ventured into the realm of artificial intelligence with AI-powered order-taking at drive-thrus. However, it seems the golden arches have hit a bit of a snag with their latest high-tech endeavor.


McDonald's decision to implement AI for taking orders was ambitious, to say the least. The goal was clear: streamline operations, reduce errors, and, ideally, make the customer experience faster and more efficient. After all, nothing says "Welcome to the future" like having a robot ask if you want fries with that.

Unfortunately, the reality of AI order-taking turned out to be a bit more...human than anticipated. After Mickey D’s introduced its Automated Ordering Technology (AOT) to over 100 outlets, things began to go hilariously and virally wrong.


Customers reported a range of issues from misheard orders to confusing interactions. Imagine how truly awesome it would be, to look at the bottom of your now soggy bag and see a hamburger patty with mayo, ketchup, onions, pickles etc… and no bun. That’s what happened when the AI mistook a request for “no onions” to mean “no bun”. A TikTokker posted a video wherein she ordered a diet coke and ended up with NINE sweet teas! There were so many such blunders that McDonald’s has decided to “temporarily pause” (corporate speak for STOP THIS DISASTER NOW!) the program.


Does this mean AI won’t eventually replace order-takers? No. Eventually the LLM’s will learn that nuances such as “easy on the mayo” doesn’t mean to add more mayo. And if you go into a Taco Bell, you’ll see that humans no longer take your orders – kiosks do.

The point is that if something as basic as taking a fast-food order is currently beyond the reach of AI, then high-end professionals are safe. AI will complement, rather than replace them.


Frederick Shelton is the CEO of Shelton & Steele. He can be reached at fs@sheltonsteele.com




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