McDonald’s is trialling automated voice-ordering technology at drive-thrus across its ten restaurants in Chicago, US.

Speaking at a conference, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said that the new technology was able to take orders correctly 85% of the time and also has the potential to take 80% of the customer orders.

However, Kempczinski noted that there were still some orders that required human involvement to gather information from customers.

The new technology is currently in the pilot phase and will require more time to be implemented across all of the company’s US locations.

The company has been planning for an automated ordering system since before the pandemic, ever since it acquired Apprente in 2019. Apprente is engaged in the development of AI-powered voice platforms.

Additionally, Kempczinski said that McDonald’s is exploring ways to automate its restaurant equipment such as fryers and grills, adding that the costs could be a setback.

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CNBC quoted Kempczinski as saying: “Now there’s a big leap from going to ten restaurants in Chicago to 14,000 restaurants across the US, with an infinite number of promo permutations, menu permutations, dialect permutations, weather – and on and on and on.”

In September 2019, McDonald’s launched the world’s first voice-initiated application process in partnership with voice assistant Alexa, which was designed to help job applicants apply for a role with the company.

The restaurant chain said that using Alexa, the job applicant can say: “Alexa, help me get a job at McDonald’s”.

McDonald’s Apply Thru was part of the company’s Made at McDonald’s hiring and reputation campaign. It is available on Alexa and Google Assistant in the UK, Ireland, the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.