No. 9: Automation at McDonald’s: McDonald’s announced several technology initiatives in 2019 such as testing kitchen automation and Alexa-style voice ordering at a handful of stores across the U.S. The company said it is leaning into more automation to increase speed of service while simultaneously simplifying operations for employees.
No. 8: Drone drops and AV testing: Uber’s test of drones and Domino’s use of autonomous delivery robots caught the eye of Tech Tracker readers. It was our No. 1 most read Tech Tracker column of the year. The main stories focused on Domino’s AV test and Uber’s federally approved drone testing program in San Diego. The ride-hailing company, which operates Uber Eats, tested drone drops with McDonald’s and Richard Blais’ fine-dining venue Juniper & Ivy.
No. 6: Domino’s reveals 3 big tech moves: During a trip to the Ann Arbor, Mich. headquarters of Domino’s, Nation’s Restaurant News senior editor and tech editor Nancy Luna learned how the chain plans to stay relevant and beat third-party delivery. In her story, she described three big innovations under way at the brand: GPS pizza tracking, conversational AI for phone orders and testing unmanned autonomous rovers in Houston, Texas.
No. 5: Sweetgreen delivery deal: In June, Sweetgreen purchased Galley Foods, a Washington, D.C.-based meal delivery service. The power move? The tech-forward company said it wants to leverage the firm’s knowledge of logistics technology, live courier operations and high-volume production.
No.4: McDonald’s deploys AI: During a conference call, McDonald's Corp. CEO Steve Easterbrook, who was later fired, said the chain had deployed AI-powered menu boards at 700 restaurants through Dynamic Yield. It was the first big news revealed by the brand after it purchased the decision logic technology company in March. The menu boards use AI to automate the upselling of menu items based on time of day, trending items and weather.
No. 3: Pizza Hut’s autonomous test: The struggling division of Yum Brands caught buzz over its announcement to team with FedEx Corp. on a delivery test using autonomous carts. The Plano, Texas-based chain tested the FedEx SameDay Bot. The autonomous rover is designed to travel on sidewalks, bumpy roads and steps.
No. 2: Secret voice bots at Chipotle: For more than a year, Chipotle Mexican Grill tested voice assistants for processing phone orders. In late July, Nation’s Restaurant News broke the news that the Newport Beach, Calif.-based fast-casual brand was using an automated phone system powered by artificial intelligence to take meal orders in 1,800 stores. “It’s human backed machine learning,” Nicole West, vice president of digital strategy and product at Chipotle, told NRN. About four months later, the brand expanded the roll out of AI-powered voice assistants to all 2,500 restaurants.
“The system is designed to reduce friction in the restaurants so that customers can go through the entire ordering process effortlessly and employees can focus on providing the strongest possible guest experience in the restaurants,” the company said.
No. 1: Delivery breakup: In July, McDonald’s Corp. ended its exclusive Uber Eats partnership. The Chicago-based chain launched nationwide delivery with Uber Eats in 2017. While the relationship will continue, McDonald’s said it is time to move on to new relationships. It is now working with DoorDash.