McDonald's acquires voice-enabled technology firm

Global fast food chain McDonald’s has announced it is to acquire Silicon Valley-based company Apprente, which develops voice-enabled technology solutions.

The technology is expected to allow for faster and more accurate order taking at the restaurant chain’s drive-thru locations, while there is future potential to incorporate it into mobile ordering and kiosks.

McDonald’s said it undertook an “extensive exploration with several parties” before making the decision to acquire Apprente after evaluating its solutions in several test restaurants. The full terms of the deal have not been revealed.

Apprente was founded in 2017 in Mountain View, California, with the aim of creating voice platforms for complex, multilingual, multi-accent and multi-item conversational ordering.

Steve Easterbrook, president and CEO of McDonald’s, said: “Building our technology infrastructure and digital capabilities are fundamental to our ‘Velocity Growth Plan’, and enable us to meet rising expectations from our customers, while making it simpler and even more enjoyable for crew members to serve guests.”

He added that Apprente’s team, and the technology they have developed, will now form ‘McD Tech Labs’, a group that will be integrated into the business’s global technology team and help drive its innovation agenda.

Itamar Arel, co-founder of Apprente, has been named vice president of McD Tech Labs.

McDonald’s said it has plans to grow its presence in Silicon Valley by hiring additional engineers, data scientists and other advanced technology experts to join the new labs team.

The Apprente acquisition represents a wider trend at McDonald’s for buying in new technology capability.

In April, the restaurant chain acquired personalisation technology provider Dynamic Yield, which has now been deployed in over 8,000 restaurants in the US. The plan is to integrate Dynamic Yield’s technology into most drive-thrus in the US and Australia by the end of 2019.

This investment helps McDonald’s provide a more personalised customer experience by varying outdoor digital menu displays based on time of day, weather, current restaurant traffic and trending items. The new technology also allows McDonald's to instantly suggest and display additional items to a customer’s order based on their current selections.

Earlier in 2019, McDonald’s invested in Plexure, a mobile app vendor, to advance the development of its own mobile app.