McDonald’s today announced a new initiative the fast food chain is calling the “Apply Thru,” in which owners of Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant devices can begin job applications using standard “Alexa” and “Ok Google” voice commands. The company is envisioning this as a way to give young people more ways to start entry-level careers at one of its restaurants, and that apparently extends to artificial intelligence-powered digital voice assistants.
You can’t actually complete the application process using Alexa or Google Assistant. “After beginning the experience via Alexa or the Google Assistant, all they’ll need to do is answer a few basic questions out loud. They’ll receive a text, following their responses to these questions, with a link to complete the application process online. Simple as that,” reads McDonald’s press release. But perhaps if actually using a computer or your phone to start applying to a job at McDonald’s was too much of a hurdle, getting the ball rolling with a hands-free voice request might do the trick.
The initiative is part of a growing series of tech-adjacent efforts McDonald’s has made over the last few years designed to fashion it as a hip, millennial-friendly brand. The company has struggled over the course of the last decade with the rise of fast casual chains, healthier eating and dieting trends, and shifts in dining culture that have resulted in less late-night drive-thru runs and more mobile app ordering.
In response, McDonald’s has embraced the bold future fusion of AI, automation, and on-demand delivery. It’s also still playing up the nostalgic notion that a McDonald’s gig can be a pleasant, entry-level affair for young people — and not the type of job that seems ripe to be replaced by the very software and robotics advancements the company is betting the future of its business on.
An example of McDonald’s more aggressive tech embrace is its massive partnership with Uber Eats, which includes experimental drone delivery, and now DoorDash, as well as the global rollout of its self-order kiosks. On the other end are marketing gems like the “Snaplications” partnership with Snapchat two years ago and now the Alexa and Google-powered Apply Thru. It’s not clear anyone really wants to apply for a job using an AI voice assistant or the Snapchat app. But McDonald’s figures it can’t hurt.
Meanwhile, the real, tech-infused drivers of its business continue to be its shift to accommodate on-demand delivery and its transition into full-scale automation. McDonald’s is currently testing out even more dramatic steps, like actual robots in the kitchen and voice-activated drive-thru systems. The company has also made a number of acquisitions this year, including an estimated $300 million deal for Israel-based AI startup Dynamic Yield, to bring even more AI advancements and personalization to its drive-thru experience, its various in-store and online menus, and other facets of of the business.
The goal, of course, is to cut costs, keep margins high, and ensure McDonald’s can process, compile, and deliver orders as efficiently as possible all around the world, in both densely packed cities and spread-out suburbs and everything in between. Those sound like exciting problems to work on. But chances are the Apply Thru won’t be accepting applications for those jobs.