McDonald’s to buy AI voice-tech business
Fast-food restaurant giant McDonald’s is underscoring its increasing focus on technology by acquiring AI voice-technology company Apprente.
The company says the investment will expand its presence in the Bay Area technology sector and allow the company to integrate new teams with advanced technology skillsets into its business.
Apprente is described as an “early-stage leader” in voice-based conversational technology.
“The agreement marks another bold step in advancing employee and customer-facing innovations while further strengthening McDonald’s technology capabilities,” the company said in a statement.
Mc D Tech Labs
The Apprente team will be the founding member of a new, integrated, internal group within McDonald’s Global Technology team called McD Tech Labs. The brand says it expects to grow its presence in Silicon Valley with the hiring of additional engineers, data scientists and other advanced technology experts to join McD Tech Labs to meet future business needs and support deployment.
Before signing the deal, McDonald’s extensively trialled Apprente’s solutions in test restaurants, along with evaluating products from other companies in the voice-technology space.
Apprente was founded in 2017 in Mountain View, California, to create voice-based platforms for complex, multilingual, multi-accent and multi-item conversational ordering.
“In McDonald’s restaurants, this technology is expected to allow for faster, simpler and more accurate order taking at the Drive Thru with future potential to incorporate into mobile ordering and kiosks,” the company 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,” said Steve Easterbrook, president and CEO at McDonald’s Corporation.
“Apprente’s gifted team, and the technology they have developed, will form McD Tech Labs, a new group integrated in our global technology team that will take our culture of innovation one step further.”
Dr Itamar Arel, co-founder of Apprente and VP of McD Tech Labs, said it was quite clear from various engagements that McDonald’s is leading the industry with technology.
“Apprente was borne out of an opportunity to use technology to solve challenging real-world problems and we’re thrilled to now apply this to creating personalised experiences for customers and crew.”
Recent McDonald’s acquisitions
Previously, McDonald’s acquired Dynamic Yield, a leader in personalisation and decision-logic technology, which is now deployed in more than 8000 US restaurants and will be integrated into nearly all drive-thru restaurants in the US and Australia by the end of this year.
McDonald’s will use the decision technology to provide a more personalised customer experience by varying outdoor digital Drive Thru menu displays to show food based on time of day, weather, current restaurant traffic and trending menu items.
The decision technology can also instantly suggest and display additional items to a customer’s order based on their current selections.
Earlier this year, McDonald’s also invested in Plexure, a mobile app vendor, to further advance the development of McDonald’s Global Mobile App.
This article first appeared on Inside Retail Asia, a sibling publication to Inside Franchise Business.