While news of restaurants adopting voice AI in drive-thrus continues to circulate, fast food giant McDonald’s is pulling the plug—for now.

The chain informed franchisees in an email that it would shut off the technology in more than 100 locations by the end of July. 

In 2021, McDonald’s launched a global partnership with IBM to test an Automated Order Taker (AOT) using AI technology at drive-thrus, aiming to improve growing demands on its restaurant teams. 

“The goal of the test was to determine if an automated voice ordering solution could simplify operations for the crew and create a faster, improved experience for our fans,” a McDonald’s spokesperson emailed to Food on Demand. 

However, the chain has not completely abandoned the potential to adopt a voice AI ordering solution in the 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,” the statement read. 

It’s unclear what exact reasons led to parting ways with IBM. Perhaps order accuracy could be playing a role. Viral TikToks have surfaced showing the voice bot messing up orders and frustrating customers. In one video, a woman said the drive-thru screen added nine sweet teas to her order when she had asked for a Diet Coke to be removed. 

Despite this, the statement read, ‘IBM remains a trusted partner, and we will continue to utilize many of their products across our global system.’

Voice AI is here to stay 

Voice AI ordering continues to advance, especially within the last few years. McDonald’s may be looking at a new vendor as several restaurant brands continue to ink deals for the technology. Only time will tell.

Taco John’s is testing voice AI in drive-thrus with provider Presto.

Most recently, Taco John’s launched AI in the drive-thru lane, following in the footsteps of Checkers & Rally’s, Hardees and Carl’s Jr. Others include Wendy’s and Del Taco—to name a few.

McDonald’s is still implementing AI. In December, the chain announced a partnership with Google to integrate generative AI solutions in restaurants. This includes enhancements to its mobile app and self-service kiosks.