McDonald’s has announced a groundbreaking partnership with Google to introduce generative AI into its stores, initiating hardware and software upgrades set to commence in 2024. These upgrades, encompassing ordering kiosks, the mobile app, and other systems, aim to leverage massive data sets with generative AI to optimize store operations. The primary goal, as stated by the company, is to ensure "hotter, fresher food" for customers, leveraging large language models to potentially enhance order accuracy and efficiency.
While the specifics of how AI will be employed remain undisclosed, the integration involves both on-location hardware and software upgrades within stores and services facilitated through Google Cloud. McDonald’s highlights the system's capability to enable managers to swiftly identify and implement solutions, reducing disruptions to business operations.
The company's statement avoids addressing the potential displacement of human workers, emphasizing that the system aims to "reduce complexity" for store crews and promises to introduce "exciting new experiences" for both crew members and customers. This stance echoes a similar narrative seen with Wendy’s, another Google Cloud AI customer, during AI ordering tests earlier in the year. Wendy's AI system was still in beta testing at a single store in Columbus, Ohio, leaving the impact on human employment open to interpretation.
However, alongside the generative AI initiative, McDonald’s also plans to deploy a new "bespoke" operating system, unifying experiences across the mobile app and store kiosks. This overall transformation aims to facilitate informed tests and automated solutions, potentially hinting at innovations such as AI-driven chatbots or enhanced cashier experiences. Nevertheless, the precise nature and impact of these changes on the human workforce and customer interactions remain uncertain, leaving the future of McDonald’s AI-powered operations to be revealed over time.