New AIs May Soon Take Your Orders at Fast Food Drive-Thrus

Fast food joints are seeking to cut down on service times while making everything easier through technology.
Loukia Papadopoulos

The pandemic restrictions have made drive-thru joints more popular than ever. This has resulted in a need to increase speed and efficiency.

To do this, fast food firms are now relying on artificial intelligence (AI). McDonald's, Burger King, and White Castle have been investing in advanced technology for a while now. But the pandemic has speeded up their efforts.

When visiting one of these joints, you can expect to see smart menu boards, automated ordering and payment processes, and even facial recognition-driven payments. 

"Humans sometimes forget to greet people, they forget, they make mistakes, they don't hear as well," Lucy Brady, McDonald's chief digital customer engagement officer, explained to CNN Business. "A machine can actually have a consistent greeting and remain calm under pressure."

"We're really looking systematically at that customer experience and thinking, 'Where can technology make this better and easier and faster?'" Brady added.

Additional augmentations

The companies are also experimenting with technology that would read customers' license plates to know what they may want to order based on past orders. Customers must opt-in to share their plate number through an app-based loyalty program.

"The thought is to make sure that it's friendly. "They remember me, they know who I am," told CNN Business Jamie Richardson, White Castle's vice president of marketing and public relations.

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Then there's PopPay, a feature that allows customers to pay via facial recognition foregoing the need to have a credit card or cash. This option is particularly popular with younger generations.

"Young people that have grown taking pictures of themselves all the time and posting them on the internet have no problem with facial recognition," told CNN Business Cali Group CEO John Miller.

Although these additions are making things faster and easier, one has to wonder how far they will go. Will humans be completely replaced in fast food drive-thrus?