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Minimum wage hikes = more robots and AI.

Ten McDonald’s restaurants in Chicago are testing automated drive-thrus using voice-ordering AI software.

CEO Chris Kempczinski said the AI technology is 85% accurate and can take 80% of orders.

The company obtained the AI technology in its 2019 acquisition of Apprente.

McDonald’s is also looking to automate its kitchen, including the fryers and grills.

CNBC reported:

At 10 McDonald’s locations in Chicago, workers aren’t taking down customers’ drive-thru orders for McNuggets and french fries — a computer is, CEO Chris Kempczinski said Wednesday.

Kempczinski said the restaurants using the voice-ordering technology are seeing about 85% order accuracy. Only about a fifth of orders need to be a taken by a human at those locations, he said, speaking at Alliance Bernstein’s Strategic Decisions conference.

Over the last decade, restaurants have been leaning more into technology to improve the customer experience and help save on labor. In 2019, under former CEO Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s went on a spending spree, snapping up restaurant tech. One of those acquisitions was Apprente, which uses artificial intelligence software to take drive-thru orders. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Kempczinski said the technology will likely take more than one or two years to implement.

McDonald’s has also been looking into automating more of the kitchen, such as its fryers and grills, Kempczinski said. He added, however, that that technology likely won’t roll out within the next five years, even though it’s possible now.

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