Major restaurant chains seem to be on an endless quest to make their restaurants more efficient, profitable and customer-friendly. Some, like Panera, have launched in-store touchscreen sales kiosks, and many more now allow customers to pre-order through their mobile apps.
But not all technological advances turn out to be an improvement over the less automated methods of the past. This appears to be the case for the AI-powered voice robots that McDonald’s has started testing in some of its drive-thrus.
Several videos featuring McDonald’s AI robots have recently gone viral on TikTok, showing hilarious, frustrating and mind-blowing customer encounters. In a Feb. 10 video, TikToker @resinsbiren recounted the time another customer stopped at another drive-thru line, and the AI bot added that customer’s Diet Coke to their own order. When @resinsbiren asked the bot to remove the drink, it complied, but then changed her order again to include nine sweet teas instead of the sweet tea she originally ordered.
“I retired from drive-thru and left,” the TikToker said.
In another post, TikToker Madilynn Cameron simply asks for water and a cup of vanilla ice cream, but the bot inexplicably adds packets of ketchup and butter to the order. When Cameron insists again that she only wants water and ice cream, the bot goes after a caramel sundae.
Text overlaid on the video reads: “Fight with the McDonald’s robot”.
Another TikTok user, @typical_redhead_, also shared a video in which she is heard pleading with the McDonald’s robot to “stop” adding Chicken McNugget meals to an order that ended up totaling over $300.
“Thought TikTok would appreciate this,” the video’s caption read.
McDonald’s only started testing drive-thru AI robots in select locations in the past few years, according to Initiatedbut these TikTok videos indicate that the channel has some major issues to address with the technology ahead of a more widespread rollout.
McDonald’s was contacted to comment on customer-reported AI ordering issues, but did not immediately respond.
McDonald’s isn’t the only major chain working to provide a more automated or efficient drive-thru experience. Chick-fil-A, for example, began testing an express drive-thru lane exclusively for mobile order pickups last year. Like McDonald’s, Checkers & Rally’s has also rolled out AI voice control to some drive-thru.
Zoe Strozewski is a staff writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Learn more about Zoe
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