Dig­i­tal drive-thrus to make per­son­al­ized rec­om­men­da­tions

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Business - BY ALEXIA ELEJALDE-RUIZ

Mc­Don­ald’s dig­i­tal drive-thru menus will soon rec­om­mend items to cus­tomers based on the weather, time of day and how busy the store is at the mo­ment, part of a big in­vest­ment in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence that the fast­food gi­ant hopes will cre­ate a more per­son­al­ized ex­pe­ri­ence.

Chicago-based Mc­Don­ald’s an­nounced Mon­day that it plans to ac­quire Dy­namic Yield, a com­pany based in New York and Tel Aviv that spe­cial­izes in de­ci­sion logic tech­nol­ogy. The $300 mil­lion ac­qui­si­tion is Mc­Don­ald’s largest since the fast food gi­ant pur­chased most of Chipo­tle 20 years ago, sources close to the com­pany said.

Mc­Don­ald’s tested Dy­namic Yield’s tech­nol­ogy in sev­eral of its restau­rants last year and will roll it out to driv­ethrus across the coun­try this year, then in in­ter­na­tional mar­kets. It also plans to in­te­grate the tech­nol­ogy into its mo­bile or­der­ing app and the self­ser­vice kiosks in­side stores.

For cus­tomers, that might mean menus will high­light soft serve ice cream on a hot day and a McCafe on a cold day, in ad­di­tion to items that pair well with what­ever the cus­tomer just or­dered. The soft­ware will also track wait times at the restau­rant so that, dur­ing busy pe­ri­ods, the menu sug­gests items that are eas­ier for staff to make, al­low­ing the drive-thru to run smoother.

Drive-thru wait times have in­creased an­nu­ally for about the last five years, CEO Steve Easter­brook said dur­ing the com­pany’s last earn­ings call, and the com­pany has been look­ing at ways to halt that trend.

Restau­rant chains have been try­ing to fol­low the lead of re­tail­ers like Ama­zon and Wal­mart that use mounds of data col­lected on their e-com­merce sites to sug­gest items shop­pers might want to buy. Mc­Don­ald’s says it will be among the first to bring the tech­nol­ogy to its phys­i­cal stores.

“With this ac­qui­si­tion, we’re ex­pand­ing both our abil­ity to in­crease the role tech­nol­ogy and data will play in our fu­ture and the speed with which we'll be able to im­ple­ment our vi­sion of cre­at­ing more per­son­al­ized ex­pe­ri­ences for our cus­tomers,” Easter­brook said in a news re­lease. Mc­Don­ald’s re­ported $21 bil­lion in rev­enues last year.

Mc­Don­ald’s will be the sole owner of Dy­namic Yield, which will con­tinue to op­er­ate as a stand­alone com­pany and serve other clients. Its clients in­clude Ur­ban Out­fit­ters, Sephora and Ikea, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

TER­RENCE AN­TO­NIO JAMES Chicago Tri­bune

Mc­Don­ald’s plans to pay $300 mil­lion to ac­quire tech­nol­ogy com­pany Dy­namic Yield, whose soft­ware will al­low the fast-food gi­ant to per­son­al­ize its dig­i­tal menu boards, such as this one in Chicago, and push ad­di­tional items based on a cus­tomer’s or­der.

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