McDonald’s has wasted no time in bringing personalization to its restaurants since the company’s acquisition of Dynamic Yield in March. On the company’s Q1 earnings call this week, CEO Steve Easterbrook said McDonald’s has already installed Dynamic Yield’s technology in 700 McDonald’s locations in the U.S.
As of right now, the technology is being used for drive-thru menus, which it can create based on data like weather, trending menu items, and current restaurant traffic. As you start ordering, the menu will automatically suggest upsell items based on that data as well as what you just ordered. Getting a McCafe? The system is probably going to suggest you order a donut stick, too.
Easterbrook noted on the call that, “Over time using data from the millions of customers that we serve daily the technology will get smarter and smarter through machine learning.”
For now, installments of Dynamic Yield’s tech are in the drive-thru, but Easterbook said we’ll eventually see it across all of McDonald’s digital platforms, including mobile ordering and self-order kiosks.
The focus on drive-thru is in part because of a larger effort by McDonald’s to cut down the amount of time customers spend in drive-thru lines. For most quick-service restaurants, the length of time customers spend in the drive-thru line has gone up over the years, despite advances in technology. Average speed-of-service time for drive thrus was 234 seconds in 2018 compared to 225 seconds the previous year, which only goes to show you it’s not about having the tech but knowing how to use it.
Acquiring Dynamic Yield is one way McDonald’s has addressed this problem. Another effort, which Easterbrook discussed on the call, was an “incentive program,” where McDonald’s locations competed against one another “to deliver the best drive-thru service times.”
However, it’s more likely that an AI-driven platform like Dynamic Yield’s will make the real difference in speeding up service and making it more accurate and personalized — in the drive-thru and otherwise. And Dynamic Yield isn’t the only version of AI up and running. Apprente makes neuroscience-inspired AI that can enable voice-ordering and integrate with restaurant POS systems. And 5thru, which isn’t yet in restaurants but is “coming soon” to a number of large quick-service chains, will (gulp) scan your license plate and offer personalized recommendations based on your linked profile.
McDonald’s installations of Dynamic Yield’s tech seems slightly different, though. Yes, the company is focused on making the drive-thru better, but, as the company plans to expand the tech into other areas, it seems like the Dynamic Yield acquisition is about integrating the many different pieces of the digital restaurant operation to drive the kinds of customer experiences and recommendations that will generate more sales. That could well be the winning strategy for any restaurant in this inescapably tech-driven new age of business.