The next time you drive up to a McDonald’s drive-thru, you might notice the menu changing while you’re ordering. This is to persuade you to buy a few extra items. The fast food giant is buying machine learning startup Dynamic Yield for a reported $300 million, and the first implementation will be in the company’s drive-thru window.
The system will look at factors like weather, time, local events, traffic levels at the restaurant and on nearby roads, historical sales data, currently popular items and even what you’re ordering to optimize menu displays. It might promote the McFlurry or iced coffees on hot days, or suggest simpler items that are faster for employees to prepare if there’s a long line waiting for instance. If it is cold, maybe hotter items will show up.
McDonald’s has tested the AI at several restaurants last year, and executive vice president and global chief information officer Daniel Henry says he expects more than 1,000 locations will be using it within three months. The system will ultimately hit all 14,000 US restaurants and then expand to other markets. McDonald’s also plans to use the AI at self-order kiosks and its mobile app. It could change how it does business drastically.
Dynamic Yield will still operate as an independent company and may eventually use license plate recognition as part of the system. Imagine it tailoring the menu to you based on this, using your purchase history.