McDonald’s: TikTok’s themadivlog on AI ordering


Nine sweet teas. Two packs of butter. Four sides of ketchup. A caramel sundae. These are among the extra items baffled customers have had added to their orders as fast food chain McDonald’s continues to roll out its robot ordering system.

The restaurant giant’s A.I. venture has been a long time in the making. In 2021, it announced a joint venture with IBM to “further accelerate the development of its Automated Order Taking (AOT) technology”.

Some 14,000 sites are expected to get the technology, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski has said, but some teething problems are already being raised by customers.

One video posted to TikTok by a user named Madilynn Cameron shows two women in a car driving up to one of the automatic screens. Attempting to buy a cup of ice cream and a bottle of water, the pair become increasingly bewildered as the A.I. continues to add unwanted items.

“Cream packet? No! I just want a large water and a cup of ice cream. Not a ketchup packet! Oh my god,” the customer exclaims to the bot—which can be heard asking questions in the background.

“Where did the butter come from? I would just like a large water and a cup of ice cream,” she laughs, showing viewers her order on the screen. A companion in the background is heard advising that perhaps the pair should just order inside the restaurant.

The pair drive away after the customer once again attempts to buy a cup of ice cream and is asked what toppings she would like. “None, nothing, nada!” she says, before sighing when a caramel sundae appears at the bottom of her order.

Other users have posted similar experiences. Three days ago, a video from Ren Adams shows a screenshot of an order with nine large sweet iced teas, a large Diet Coke and a hash brown.

She explains: “This morning I tried to go to McDonald’s and get my daily dose of caffeine and some breakfast. I was going to get a hash brown, a sweet tea and a coke. So I order and I’m at the first drive-thru line and as I order a car pulls up to the second drive-thru line.

“At this McDonald’s it’s all robot, there’s no person. So she [the robot] adds the Diet Coke from the next line to my screen. Tell me why when I tell the robot that I have no Diet Coke, for some reason, she took it off and made it nine sweet teas. Nine!

“I did not ask for this. I pulled out of the drive-thru and drove away.”

The videos have now been viewed tens of thousands of times. Commenters weighed in: “And this is exactly why a person should take your order.” Another added: “I don’t want to talk to anyone (including robots). I just order from the app. So much easier.”

85% accuracy

McDonald’s boss Kempczinski previously revealed positive feedback to AOT, saying restaurants using the technology were seeing 85% accuracy.  Speaking at Alliance Bernstein’s Strategic Decisions conference in 2021, he added that at the time 10 locations in Chicago were using the technology and as a result staff were taking just 20% of orders.

He continued that the brand may also look to automate some of its kitchens such as fryer and grill station but added that even though it would be possible now, it won’t come within the next five years.

McDonald’s did not immediately respond when contacted by Fortune for comment.

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