McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) has announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire Apprente, a Silicon Valley-based start-up specializing in conversational voice-based ordering technology. Apprente, founded in 2017, uses neuroscience-based artificial intelligence technology to create its voice-based platforms. The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
According to the statement from McDonald’s, the technology is “expected to allow for faster, simpler and more accurate order taking at the Drive Thru.” The technology has already been tested in McDonald’s test restaurants and has been found to understand different accents. The use of the technology could lower wait times and allow restaurants to operate with smaller staffs. In the future, the technology could also be incorporated into kiosks and mobile ordering.
The company also announced that Apprente employees will be the founding members of a new group called McD Tech Labs. The group will be housed within McDonald’s global technology team with Apprente co-founder Itamar Arel as vice president of the group. McDonald’s said it is planning to expand the team by hiring more engineers, data scientists and other tech experts.
McDonald’s is increasingly looking at tech acquisitions as a way to reinvent the fast-food experience. Apprente is the fast-food giant’s third tech-focused deal this year. Its other recent tech investments included the purchase of Dynamic Yield, a company considered a leader in personalization and decision logic technology, for more than $300 million in April and taking a minority stake in Plexure, a mobile app vendor.
The technology McDonald’s acquired in its Dynamic Yield purchase has already been deployed to more than 8,000 U.S. locations. The company says it is used to vary “outdoor digital Drive Thru menu displays to show food based on time of day, weather, current restaurant traffic, and trending menu items,” as well as suggest additional items based on a customer’s selections. The technology is likely to be integrated into all U.S. and Australia drive-thrus by the end of 2019.