fast food drive thru display mcdonalds

McDonald’s acquires machine learning start-up to create dynamic drive-through menus

Image credit: mcdonalds

McDonald’s has acquired a machine learning start-up to help the restaurant chain change the menus on its drive-through screens in order to boost sales depending on a variety of factors.

Everything from the weather, the time, restaurant traffic and general trends can have an impact on what the computerised menus will display to customers. It will also make further recommendations based on what the customer already has in their basket.

It could be used, for example, to recommend McFlurry’s or other ice-cream products on hot days or to show what is popular at that particular restaurant at the moment.

The fast-food chain already tested the technology in several US restaurants last year and intends to roll the system out to other drive-through branches in its home country before expanding to other top international markets.

McDonald’s will also begin work to integrate the technology into its self-order kiosks and its smartphone app.   

The new menu can also come up with instant suggestions based on what the customer has already ordered.

Israeli startup Dynamic Yield, which developed the system, is being acquired by McDonald’s for a reported $300,000 (£227,000) although it will remain an independent company.

“Technology is a critical element of our Velocity Growth Plan, enhancing the experience for our customers by providing greater convenience on their terms,” said Steve Easterbrook, president and chief executive of McDonald’s.

“With this acquisition, we’re expanding both our ability to increase the role technology and data will play in our future and the speed with which we’ll be able to implement our vision of creating more personalised experiences for our customers.”

Easterbrook indicated that the system could be used to recognise a customer’s licence plate as they approach, adjusting the menu to show products based on their previous purchases.

“We will be very sensitive as we learn, as we go forward,” Easterbrook said in an interview with Wired.

McDonald’s has often been quick to jump on new technologies. It installed Wi-Fi at most of its 1,200 UK restaurants all the way back in 2007. It has also embraced touchscreen displays and contactless payments for its menus, as well as installing wireless charging points in its tables.

In 2018, a restaurant opened in San Francisco that served burgers constructed entirely by robots, with customers making their orders via a tablet.

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