June 22, 2024 / VOLUME NO. 319

Pizza Glue

McDonald’s will end a more than two-year pilot with IBM that had the fast food giant using artificial intelligence to take drive-through orders at roughly 100 locations. 

McDonald’s had hoped the test would result in faster service and simpler operations, according to a statement published in the trade publication Restaurant Business. But some reports noted accuracy issues as a key problem, with the New York Post citing mistakes such as bacon-topped ice cream cones. Some customers posted their experiences on social media platforms like TikTok, publicizing embarrassing errors, such as an order for more than $250 in McNuggets meals.

Separately, the Alphabet subsidiary Google has been experiencing its own public humiliation due to early errors with its “AI Overviews” tool, launched in May. The generative AI-powered search brings up quick summaries in response to user prompts. But using the entire internet as a data pool resulted in laughable mistakes, which the company has since corrected. When asked about how to keep cheese from sliding off pizza, Google said to “add some glue” to the sauce — ostensibly pulling its advice from an 11-year-old Reddit thread, according to multiple news reports. 

Despite some egg on its face in the press, AI isn’t going away. Fast food companies face a talent shortage, making automation particularly attractive. McDonald’s plans to find another technology partner to help improve the drive-through experience, according to Restaurant Business, and other quick-service chains are interested in IBM’s automated order-taking technology. McDonald's also announced a partnership with Google Cloud in December to use generative AI across the organization; the fast food chain Wendy’s separately announced a pilot last year with Google Cloud to automate its drive-throughs.

And generative AI has had success in other industries. Otter.ai, an AI transcription service, added a summary feature to its transcripts earlier this year that includes an outline of the conversation along with action items that help users make sense of lengthy interviews. 

Banks have reported internal success stories, too, as Bank Director explored in a research report earlier this year. The $45 billion SouthState Corp. launched a time-saving internal chatbot in 2023 to answer employees’ questions. 

Investment in AI boomed in 2023, rising five times compared to the prior year, according to CB Insights. Those increased dollars mean more experiments by big companies — and more mistakes. Smart companies will learn from them. 

Emily McCormick, vice president of editorial & research for Bank Director

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About Bank Director

Bank Director provides research, peer-insight and executive and board services to the financial industry. CEOs, CFOs, Chairs and leadership teams at financial institutions, fintechs and financial services firms turn to Bank Director to keep pace with their ever-evolving business landscape.