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The One Change You May Notice at McDonald's Drive-Thru

Artificial intelligence aims to improve customer service and order accuracy.
FACT CHECKED BY Joseph Neese
mcdonalds drive-thru

One of McDonald's greatest achievements last year in terms of customer satisfaction was trimming down the average service time at its drive-thrus. The experience now lasts about 5 minutes and 49 seconds from start to finish, compared to 6 minutes and 18 seconds in 2019, according to CNN Business.

The drive-thru currently accounts for 70% of all sales at McDonald's, so it may come as no surprise that the fast-food giant is actively testing more new ways to improve this service. The company is tapping into artificial intelligence to help increase speed and order accuracy, and the new technology is beginning to roll out at select locations, CNN reports. (Related: The Saddest Restaurant Closures In Your State.)

For example, customers in suburban Chicago may notice that a robot has replaced the human employees taking their drive-thru orders. The robotic female voice, which works similarly to Alexa or Siri, is designed to maintain certain customer service standards.

"Humans sometimes forget to greet people. They forget, they make mistakes, they don't hear as well," Lucy Brady, McDonald's chief digital customer engagement officer, told CNN Business. "A machine can actually have a consistent greeting and remain calm under pressure."

For now, this feature is still in the testing phase. It's unclear how long it will take McDonald's to expand it to all drive-thru locations, which comprise about 95% of their 14,000-restaurant footprint in the U.S.

Over the last few years, McDonald's has also rolled out digital menu boards, which can make customized order recommendations. It even tested a license-plate recognition software to further personalize the suggestions.

For more on recent fast-food trends, check out 6 Most Anticipated Fast-Food Menu Items Launching This Year. And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to get all of the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.

Mura Dominko
Mura is a senior news editor leading ETNT's coverage of America's favorite fast foods and restaurant chains. Read more