Business

McDonald's digital drive-throughs will start making personalized recommendations

Would you like fries with that?

Chicago Tribune/TNS

McDonald’s plans to pay $300 million to acquire technology company Dynamic Yield, whose software will allow the fast-food company to personalize its digital menu boards and push additional items based on what a customer has just ordered. Above, Self-service kiosks at in use at a McDonald’s in Chicago.
Chicago Tribune/TNS McDonald’s plans to pay $300 million to acquire technology company Dynamic Yield, whose software will allow the fast-food company to personalize its digital menu boards and push additional items based on what a customer has just ordered. Above, Self-service kiosks at in use at a McDonald’s in Chicago.

McDonald’s digital drive-through menus soon will 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 fast-food giant hopes will create a more personalized experience.

Chicago-based McDonald’s announced Monday 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 company 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 drive-throughs across the country this year, then in international markets.

It also plans to integrate the technology into its mobile ordering app and the self-service 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 also will 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-through to run smoother.

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Drive-through wait times have increased annually for about the past five years, CEO Steve Easterbrook said during the company’s most recent 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 such as 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 stand-alone company and serve other clients.

Its clients include Urban Outfitters, Sephora and Ikea, according to its website.

In a video released by McDonald’s with the announcement, Easterbrook said, “When you serve 68 million customers every day, our ability to learn about our customers and play that back through this technology is unbeatable, it gives us a huge competitive advantage.”

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