back to article Big Blue scoffs a Happy Meal: McDonald's sells automated order-taking tech to IBM

Big Blue has taken a bite out of McDonald's, acquiring the burger chain's automated order taking (AOT) tech – and the "McD Tech Labs" that built it, for an undisclosed consideration that may or may not include an upsold serve of fries. The labs were created after Mickey Dee's 2019 acquisition of AI voice recognition startup …

  1. b0llchit Silver badge

    McStaff McRedundancies by McAI

    Soon there will be no McHumans at any McD left. The McBurgers will be McRobotic. The McMilk will be McRobotic. All the Mc* will be McBotic, even stock up. The delivery vans are McAutomated selfMcDriving and the McBots will do the rest. McEtc...

    When will McD serve excusively to McRobots? Or are the allegedly McMammalians driving along the McDrive already McRobots?

    I do, kind of, petty the school dropouts. Soon they can no longer apply for a McD McJob.

    1. msobkow Silver badge

      Re: McStaff McRedundancies by McAI

      Automation has long been expected to eliminate the vast majority of "drudge work" jobs, and as the food chain climbs higher and higher, more and more advanced tasks get viewed as expensive human-cost "drudge" to be automated.

      To be honest, I've made a *career* out of putting myself and others out of work. I've always tried to deliver reliable solutions, not something that I can "milk for maintenance fees" down the road. When I say something is done, I want it to be DONE until there is a pile of cash and a contract for upgrades, not dribs and drabs of "The bean counter on aisle 32 wants the report shifted one line down and double spaced"

      1. b0llchit Silver badge

        Re: McStaff McRedundancies by McAI

        But you have to appreciate the irony of McD working on reducing and eliminating the bottom of the job market and replace it with few high skilled jobs outsourced to IBM.

        Then questions pop up... Do the highly skilled workers dine at McD? Who can afford McD, if the bottom is out of a job?

        1. Michael Habel Silver badge

          Re: McStaff McRedundancies by McAI

          Who has to work when you have Universal Credit (i.e. Welfare), to cover it for you.

    2. Friendly Neighbourhood Coder Dan

      Re: McStaff McRedundancies by McAI

      School drop outs and those who opted to park themselves at the edges of education for a few years, so that they could procrastinate applying for McJobs. History, Philosophy, English, Media...

    3. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: McStaff McRedundancies by McAI

      Don't worry there is Amazon, bottle to pee not included when you sign for the job.

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: McStaff McRedundancies by McAI

        Or any other distribution center, (FedEX, UPS, USPS, UK Mail, Deutsche Post, DHL etc....), also any import or export hall at your local international airport. We need not single handedly point to Amazon for this.

        In any case I prefer Amazon over Fleebay, as they actually deliver, and in a timely matter, un like Flerebay that takes weeks, reports an Item as "Delivered", (and I'm still wondering where my Package is). SCREW FLEEBAY!

    4. Outski Silver badge

      Re: McStaff McRedundancies by McAI

      I do, kind of, petty [sic] the school dropouts. Soon they can no longer apply for a McD McJob.

      There's always B&Q, the one nearest me seems to be where the MaccyD rejects end up

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: There's always B&Q... where the MaccyD rejects end up

        Selling plenty of chipboard.

    5. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: McStaff McRedundancies by McAI

      This is what happens when you demand "Life wages", for a zero skill job. Once upon a time a Menu (Burger, Fries, and Coke), was less than a fiver. Since then Germany implamented a minimum wage requirement, and now that same menu costs twice as muich. There is a price people are willing to pay for a crapy burger, and we hit it. Add to this the increasing bite of global inflation, negative intrest rates, the increeasing shortages of goods, and now slowly foodstuffs. I don't see a bright future for the burger flipping industry. unless they get rid of the human element.

      Which, with upon further reflection, I would whole hartedly welcome. as

      1) My order would hopefuly be fresh off the grill.

      2) With less human fluids (i.e. Spit), in my food.

      So yeah.... I welcome or Clowny-World robotic overlords.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Loss of staff?

    Most McDoglins in the UK are now primarily based around touch screen self service kiosks so I’m not sure what the risk to jobs is. Perhaps those on the drive thru window?

    Whilst the kiosks may have taken away jobs at the counter, there seem to have been new/different jobs created which involve taking food to tables for example.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Loss of staff?

      Over here, the people taking the food to the table are the counter staff.

      So why don't other fast-food companies work on improving their service? I'm stuck eating McDonald's because they're the only ones that can get my order even remotely right on a timescale less than an ice age.

      Five Guys, In&Out, Steak'n'Shake, Burger King, Wendy's are just absolute shambling incompetents.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Loss of staff?

        You might want to get out of the heart-attack, artery hardening lard shops and show your body some actual food .. or you wont need to worry about the service .. except of the crane that lifts you up to do a post mortem

        1. ArrZarr

          Re: Loss of staff?

          Well when the crane lifts me up to do that post mortem, at least I won't have to read any more of your comments ;)

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: at least I won't have to read any more of your comments ;)

            It does sound rather McAbre.

  3. MrMerrymaker
    Thumb Up

    Excellent news...

    Seeing as McDogshit are touch screen based..

    Excellent news... For B0rked!

  4. Winkypop Silver badge

    All that new high-tech McTech!

    And yet, the food is still a tepid mess.

    1. oiseau Silver badge

      Re: All that new high-tech McTech!

      And yet, the food is ...


      Don't be daft.


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Big Blue has taken a bite out of McDonald's, acquiring the burger chain's automated order taking (AOT) tech – and the McD Tech Labs that built it"

    So there you have it, you have the ideal "IT departement" that even builds their own very successful point of sales devices and then you sell it for a onetime increase of your bottom line.

    How short sighted can management be?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      That depends on when the next quarterly report is due.

    2. Michael Habel Silver badge

      I suspect they'll be granted a licence to use it, which in turn will be cheaper to maintain then the R&D Dept that created the ting in the first place.

  6. pavel.petrman Silver badge

    "AI-driven customer care solutions with IBM Watson."

    So, after a decade of investment in AI and cost cutting on everything else (except for Ginny's helicopter rides to the countryside), and losing money and value continuously in the process, they go and buy a quarter pound of AI in the drive-in?

    1. oiseau Silver badge

      Re: "AI-driven customer care solutions with IBM Watson."

      ... losing money and value continuously in the process, they go and buy a quarter pound of AI ...

      Hmm ...

      Maybe they're just doing a strictly local version the HP/Autonomy trick.

      ie: write down ~ 75% of the reported undisclosed consideration before next year is here and then sue Ronald Mc Donald without the need of extraditing anyone.

      I wonder if UBS, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America or Slaughter & May and Morgan Lewis had any say in all this?


  7. Flywheel Silver badge
    Big Brother

    The ultimate challenge

    Can Watson fix the bl**dy ice cream machines? That's all we need to know.

    1. pavel.petrman Silver badge

      Re: The ultimate challenge

      All i can do is optimize the break down schedule, as the ice cream machines apparently break down intentionally (youtubes are full of explanation of this).

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: The ultimate challenge

        I take it you are against being unable to ever own anything, and being happy then. Cause its all about that sweet sweet recurring revenue in todays market.

  8. Denarius Silver badge

    the irony, the irony

    software from a artery hardening obesity generating firm bought by a shambling corporate arterial scholeric ruin of a firm downsized to a skeleton.

    Now if the coffee would improve back to what it was ten years ago there would be something to buy in emergencies. As it is, I'd rather do without. @Flywheel, the maccas icecream machines are apparently a tale in themselves. Manglement at its finest.

    Once IBM used to write good software. I still remember from middle 1990s the voice control of a laptop running AIX. Yes, IBM laptop running AIX natively. The voice control handled multiple accents in a very noisy echoing computer fair. To now buy stuff from a burger slinger suggests all the good management, let alone software engineers are long gone.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: the irony, the irony

      I played with that on the early 43P desktop systems with Ultimedia Services installed in about 1995,and I also had access to ThinkPad Power 850's when they became available, as we used them as Out-of-Hours laptops for the on-call specialists in the IBM AIX Suppport Centre (although the modem cards kept failing, we ended up using external modems for the dial up).

      It really wasn't that sophisticated, although I have to admit that I was only using the voice control aspects of CDE, but I wasn't that impressed (down, down, click). I had seen similar technology over the preceding 10 years, using various hardware assists on things as humble as the BBC Micro (although that was using a custom Fast Fourier Analysis piece of kit for the hashing of the words, which the BEEB then looked up in a simple database).

      Shortly after voice control of AIX systems, there were multiple voice recognition systems for PC's running Windows. I remember Dragon Naturally Speaking and IBM's own Via Voice, but there were others.

      But it took until Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft built natural speech recognition into consumer devices for this technology to really take off. That was a very long 10 years (something that seemed to always be the expected timeline) from the early 1980s to actually come to fruition.

      I would have liked to see the technology for local speech recognition to have happened, however, rather than having it shipped out to the cloud for processing. Even an Amazon Echo Dot has more processing power than the hardware that started doing reliable voice recognition in the 1980/1990s. Maybe it was only the data harvesting capabilities that served as the final enabler for this technology.

      1. Anomalous Cowturd

        Re: the irony, the irony

        Once you had trained it to your particular voice, and learned to speak with clear...gaps...between...the...words, Via Voice was perfectly usable on a 486 under OS/2.

        The way similar sounding words changed as the context became clear was impressive.

        How many times more powerful is a modern smartphone over a 486/100? This never needed to be remotely "processed," it's just a way to better target advertising, or general spying on their users.

  9. JDX Gold badge

    Automated ordering

    I read this as the AI ordering FOR you... "you look a big chap, you get a supersize double-bigmac meal with cheese sticks and an extra burger. And diet coke, got to watch our weight, eh sir"

  10. Luiz Abdala

    Voice Recognition is a pet project from IBM for over... 30 years now?

    Remember that IBM package to add voice recogntion to your pc? Naturally speaking...?

    Back then, it would hamper a Pentium 100 MHz performance, but today...

    I wanna see this system botching up your orders, and they having to rejig the entire system to show the order in WRITING before accepting the yelled order over a windy day and noisy traffic.

  11. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    McDonalds AI?

    I would've thought they would call it EI (EIO).

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