Big Mac or Big Data? McDonald’s Buys AI Tech To Personalize Drive-Thru Menus

On Monday, fast food giant McDonald’s announced that it is acquiring tech startup Dynamic Yield in order to create a drive-thru menu that can be customized according to factors such as the weather, restaurant traffic, currently popular menu items and what you’ve already ordered.

According to people familiar with the deal, who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, McDonald's offered more than $300 million for Dynamic Yield. 

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"Technology is a critical element of our Velocity Growth Plan, enhancing the experience for our customers by providing greater convenience on their terms," McDonald's President and CEO Steve Easterbrook said in a statement to TechCrunch. "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."

McDonald's tested Dynamic Yield's artificial intelligence technology in several restaurant locations in 2018. In a pilot program at a McDonald's restaurant in Miami, Florida, algorithms used data such as the weather, time of day, historical sales figures and even traffic information to display additional items to customers that they might be enticed into purchasing.

"When you look at the answers that this decision engine provides, it may not seem so obvious to begin with, but for customers it makes sense. It's not just about the individual, it's also taking training information from other customers," Daniel Henry, McDonald's executive vice president and global chief information officer, said in an interview with WIRED. "It's only going to get smarter and smarter, the more customers interact with it." 

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According to Henry, the technology will be implemented in 1,000 locations across the US during the next three months. Eventually, McDonald's plans to implement the technology in international markets as well.

"We started Dynamic Yield seven years ago with the premise that customer-centric brands must make personalization a core activity," Dynamic Yield co-founder and CEO Liad Agmon said in a statement to TechCrunch. "We're thrilled to be joining an iconic global brand such as McDonald's and are excited to innovate in ways that have a real impact on people's daily lives."

Dynamic Yield, which has headquarters in Tel Aviv and New York, will continue to serve other clients as a standalone company even under McDonald's ownership, according to multiple reports.

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