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McDonald’s is spending $300 million to be more like Amazon

McDonald’s is spending $300 million to be more like Amazon
[Photo: courtesy of McDonald’s]

Your Big Mac is about to get served with a side of artificial intelligence. McDonald’s has announced plans to serve itself a happy meal in the form of its acquisition of Dynamic Yield, an artificial intelligence company based in New York and Tel Aviv, for $300 million.

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The company’s artificial intelligence insights will let the fast food giant data determine which of its items are most popular with consumers, and allow it to offer a more “personal, customized” experience, it said. The burger-pushing franchise says it will use the technology to provide an “even more personalized customer experience” to drive-thru customers based on data points like “time of day, weather, current restaurant traffic and trending menu items.”

That means that if everyone around you is eating their Mueller report-fueled feelings in the form of chicken nuggets, Egg McMuffins, and shamrock shakes, the AI can pick up on the trend and suggest it to whoever is next in the drive thru. It also means that your fast food experience will start to look a lot more like a trip to Amazon or other digital retailers, which have long used personal data and algorithms to make shopping recommendations.

The purchase, which is yet to be completed, will be the largest McDonald’s deal since 1998, when it became an investor in Chipotle Mexican Grill. It fully divested its stake in the burrito chain by 2006.

As Wired notes, AI isn’t entirely new territory for McDonald’s, which started testing this technology in several U.S. restaurants in 2018 and will continue to roll it out through 2019. Plus, Mickey D’s already uses geofencing around its stores to know when one of the users of its mobile apps is approaching the restaurant so they can get their Filet-O-Fish out of the deep freeze and have it ready when they roll up.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook told Wired that the company has big plans for big data and smart tech, and could potentially use wireless beacons to detect your smartphone–or even cameras to scan your car’s license plate–in order to make more personalized menu suggestions.

While the eyebrows of privacy advocates may have creeped up into their hairline while reading about the company’s plans, many customers would probably be okay with all the data gathering if it could tell them which McDonald’s had a functioning ice cream machine.

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