McDonald’s Installs 700 AI-Powered Menu Boards

Fast-food giant is incentivizing employees to improve drive-thru sales and speed up breakfast orders.

May 02, 2019

CHICAGO, Ill.—McDonald’s said is focusing on overall restaurant operations, especially at the drive-thru, for 2019, according to a report from Nation’s Restaurant News.

McDonald’s acquired Dynamic Yield, a decision logic company in March, and recently installed menu boards from Dynamic Yield at 700 locations. The chain is using Dynamic Yield’s artificial intelligence technology to automate the upselling of menu items based on time of day, trending items and weather.

“We’re leveraging technology to improve and modernize the way we connect with customers,” Steve Easterbrook, CEO, McDonald’s, told investors during a conference call. “We’re confident about the road ahead.”

Over the long term, McDonald’s plans to add more of Dynamic’s AI-powered software to the brand’s apps and kiosks.

In addition, McDonald’s has turned to old-fashioned head-to-head competition to incentivize employees to improve drive-thru sales and increase speed at breakfast. In the first quarter, the company launched a drive-thru challenge at breakfast, which was similar to competitions held at the brand’s European restaurants. McDonald’s gave no details about the contest or what rewards store employees received except to say it made a difference during a critical daypart.

“It was a strong start to the year,” Easterbrook said. “But we still have a lot of work to do to take share back in that segment.”

In the U.S., same-store sales increased 4.5%, compared with a 2.9% gain in the first quarter of last year. The domestic results beat expectations, which predicted a 3% gain. The chain saw a 5.4% increase in global same-store sales, compared with a 5.5% increase over the year-ago period.  It was the company’s 15th consecutive quarter of positive global comparable sales.

Despite the good news, McDonald’s is under pressure from consumers and advocacy groups to offer a plant-based meal, a growing trend among major QSRs. Burger King announced plans Monday to roll out the vegan “Impossible Whopper” across the country by the end of 2019. Easterbrook said his culinary teams are “paying close attention to it,” but McDonald’s must decide whether the “additional complexity” is worth the investment.