Fast Food Serving Up AI

The adoption of artificial intelligence is spreading to fast food. McDonald’s, the pioneer of fast food, is embracing AI as a way to increase sales and decrease costs. They actually have invested millions in acquiring technology companies that specialize in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

McDonald’s has also established McD Tech Labs in Silicon Valley. If you are a fan of McDonald’s you probably have noticed their new digital order boards designed to market their offerings more strategically taking into account the weather, the time of day, the popularity of certain menu items and the length of the wait.

They are currently testing technology that can read license plate numbers similar to E-Z Pass that will allow McDonald’s to tailor a list of suggested purchases to a customer’s previous orders. They are also exploring voice recognition technology as a way to accelerate ordering freeing up workers that can be directed to other tasks to speed up processing orders.

The smart algorithms that have been built into drive through menu boards have already generated larger orders. By the end of the year the new system is expected to be in place at every McDonald’s drive through in the country.

This trend is being adopted by more and more brick-and-mortar retailers. Supermarkets, clothing stores, restaurants, and other businesses are using technology to collect data on their customers and deploy that information, like McDonalds’s, to encourage more spending.

Bluetooth devices can track shopper’s movements, allowing for companies to send texts and emails recommending incentives on products that customers considered, but did not select. For example, in the growing food-delivery segment apps have generated a treasure trove of customer purchasing data.

Another example is Domino’s Pizza who has implemented streamlined phone and online ordering systems, data collection techniques, and even in some areas self-driving cars. Their major competitor, Pizza Hut, recently acquired an online ordering software company.

As you can see, AI continues to provide a plethora of ways that any business can run their operations with fewer people and increase profitability. With the way it’s going, machine learning and artificial intelligence may soon know what customers want even before they decide and just offer them the opportunity to click ‘Yes.’

Robert M. Donnelly is an author, educator and brand builder for businesses and individuals. His consultancy business is called His corporate life was spent in executive positions with IBM, Pfizer and EXXON and then as the CEO for several U.S. subsidiaries of foreign multinational firms. Professor Donnelly is on the faculty of Saint Peters University as well as Rushmore University, a global online university. His latest book is Personal Brand Planning for Life, available on Amazon. He also functions as an interim executive. You can contact him at or visit his website at