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TikTokers are not lovin’ McDonald’s new AI-powered drive-thru

“This McDonald’s robot is wild,” says one TikToker as the screen tallies a total of 28 orders of Chicken McNuggets.

McDonald’s has a new AI ordering system and, well, some customers are not lovin’ it.

On Feb. 10, TikTok user Ren Adams (@resinsbiren) posted a video decrying McDonald’s new artificial intelligence technology, which the company has deployed at a number of drive-thrus around the country. And, as evidenced by many other TikToks, they're not alone in their complaints.

“So you all know how it’s 2023, and robots are taking over the world,” says Adams in the video.

Adams explains that that morning, they tried to order their “daily dose of caffeine” along with breakfast, wanting hash browns, a sweet tea and a Coke. But, when another passenger pulled up in the lane next to theirs to order, the AI picked up the other driver’s order, too.

“Mind you, at this McDonald’s, it’s all robot,” Adams says, explaining that the AI then adds the other customer’s Diet Coke to their order. “We’re talking to a robot, there’s no person on the speaker, it’s just a robot taking your order.”

After attempting to remove the errant soda from her order, the AI malfunctions, instead adding eight additional sweet teas to her order in addition to deleting the Diet Coke.

“I saw this s---, and I pulled out of the drive-thru and drove away. I said f--- that,” Adams says in frustration.

The partnership between tech juggernaut IBM and McDonald’s was first announced in a joint statement by both companies in October 2021. In the announcement, the companies said they would “further accelerate the development and deployment of its Automated Order Taking (AOT) technology,” which in the time since has come to pass.

Per the agreement, IBM acquired McD Tech Labs, a part of the fast-food conglomerate which was created to develop, test and deploy an AI-enabled voice system to automate McDonald’s drive-thru order-taking experience. McDonald’s has said the move is part of a broader effort to accelerate the ordering experience and fill gaps in its workforce, which includes testing the implementation of robot fryers.

The move followed McDonald’s 2019 acquisition of Apprente, a startup that built conversational agents to automate voice-based ordering, which can do so in multiple languages. McDonald’s calls this plan “Accelerating the Arches,” aiming for strides forward in its digital and delivery spaces in addition to the drive-thru.

“This agreement will accelerate McDonald’s efforts to provide an even more convenient and unique customer and crew experience,” reads the joint statement.

Still, according to a report emailed to Restaurant Dive in June 2022, McDonald’s AI has experienced lower accuracy rates than the 95% the company desired before rolling the tech out nationally. At 24 Illinois restaurants, the AI scored in “the low 80% range,” leaving quite a gap to automated grub-getting perfection.

A representative for McDonald’s did not immediately respond to’s request for comment on this story.

As McDonald’s continues to test this technology with real customers, even more complaints have emerged on social media.

On Jan. 24, TikTok user Cailyn Sykora (@typical_redhead_) posted a short clip of her and a passenger laughing hysterically at McDonald’s AI, as it adds order after order of chicken nuggets to her tab.

“This McDonald’s robot is wild,” reads the on-screen text, as the screen tallies a total of 28 orders of Chicken McNuggets for hundreds of dollars while the girls in the video beg it to stop through snorts of laughter.

An earlier video, from November 2022, shows user Madilynn Cameron (@themadivlog) “fighting” with the McDonald’s AI, trying to order vanilla ice cream without caramel when the machine adds cream to her order instead, then butter.

People on social media have been debating the merits of implementing AI technology in fast-food drive-thrus, with most commenters under these videos against the idea.

“I always ask for a human. I’m so glad they’re my only local place with the robot,” commented one TikTok user.

“Omg I would laughed so hard they need better robots this is (too) funny,” wrote another person.

“I wish they would get rid of the robots & make the order taker a WFH position where they can work drive thrus at multiple locations for (efficiency),” suggested another commenter.

“And this is exactly why a person should take your order,” commented another TikTok user. “We all know when we talk to computerized ppl even on the phone we gotta scream at our phone just for them to hear us correctly.”

Of course, McDonald’s isn’t the only fast-food chain to dive into the world of automated ordering: Companies like Panera, Wendy’s, Popeyes, Sonic and Checkers have all experimented with AI technology at the drive-thru in one form or another.