McDonald’s Drive-Thru attendants replaced with AI
Fast food goliath McDonald's has trialled an AI voice recognition system at several drive-thrus in Chicago, USA, expanding from the one single test in a restaurant launched a few years ago.
As the price of food rises, businesses look for ways to save money and cutting out entry-level jobs, such as drive-thru attendants, is one option.
AI helps businesses, but threatens jobs
In the post-pandemic era, utilising AI technology seems like a sensible idea. AI outperforms human labour in a number of ways:
- AI drive-thru attendants do not get sick, do not need sick leave, parental leave, holidays, weekends or time off
- AI do not require payment and cannot set up a Trade Union
- AI do not have rights
- AI cannot be late for work
- AI can be cleaned and remain more hygienic than humans
For these reasons, many are concerned that AI could take away job opportunities.
At 16, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world, took his first job in the fast food franchise. Bezos said he became grateful for the experience of working under pressure and that the role also taught him about being a good manager. Employing AI in such roles will mean less people get to learn from these entry level jobs.
AI accuracy lacking at McDonald's
McDonald's purchased the drive-thru voice technology from the startup Apprente in 2019.
Apprente creates speech-based AI businesses. The business “delivers enterprising solutions for a broad range of customer service applications that presently necessitate human interaction”.
But the AI technology used in the McDonald’s drive-thru so far, is reportedly only 85% accurate and one fifth of orders need help from a human to put through. For customers with specific dietary requirements, this could lead to problems in order mix-ups.
Regardless, CEO Kempczinski has estimated five years before a national rollout.
"There's still a lot of work, but (...) we feel good about the technical feasibility of it and the business case," Kempczinski said in a conference transcript from FactSet.
Deliveroo boss, Will Shu, goes undercover as food courier
The co-founder of Deliveroo, Will Shu, has taken a humble approach to leading the company, by delivering food to customers himself to find out what his employees deal with. On one recent trip, he noted how restaurant staff were ‘rude’ to him when he pointed out that the food he was due to deliver was cold.
Co-founder Will Shu is based in London. The University of Pennsylvania graduate hatched Deliveroo in 2012, with the target of getting local restaurant meals to hungry people quickly. The company has a revenue of £476m.
Please tell your staff to smile, says Deliveroo boss
The Deliveroo app allows users to order takeaway food, which is then delivered by independent food couriers, often cyclists in weather-proof backpackers, to a house, place of work or even a public location. The company is now active in 12 countries and has helped many through the stress of the pandemic by delivering delicious meals to the doorstep.
Shu has chosen to do several undercover rounds and he told The Diary of a CEO podcast that on one delivery in Notting Hill, he was rudley disregarded by the staff of an eatery where he collected the food.
“I did five deliveries last night in Notting Hill. I’m not like a celebrity so no one recognises me. Then I got the food and it was kind of cold, and I’m like ‘hey, you know this food’s kind of cold’ and they were like ‘just deliver it buddy.”
Shu refused to name the location but said he would tell their bosses about the incident.
“We need to figure out a way to get this to work. Please tell your staff just smile, say ‘hey, how are you doing’. It makes a big difference in people’s days.”
Deliveroo set to expand its business with new tech roles
Deliveroo has recently announced that it will create 400 high-skilled tech jobs, to support its rapid growth and to help restaurants improve efficiency.
The company is seeking to hire across a range of skill sets including software engineers, product managers, user researchers, designers, and even data scientists.