McDonald’s Corp. announced this week that it has reached an agreement to acquire Apprente, 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 announcement comes after extensive exploration with several parties, including evaluating Apprente’s solutions in McDonald’s test restaurants.
Apprente was founded in 2017 in Mountain View, Cal., 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 the technology into mobile ordering and kiosks.
“Building our technology infrastructure and digital capabilities is fundamental to our Velocity Growth Plan and enables us to meet rising expectations from our customers while making it simpler and even more enjoyable for crew members to serve guests," McDonald’s president and chief executive officer Steve Easterbrook said. “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.”
“McDonald’s commitment to innovation has long inspired our team. It was quite clear from our various engagements that McDonald’s is leading the industry with technology,” said Dr. Itamar Arel, co-founder of Apprente and vice president of McD Tech Labs. “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 personalized experiences for customers and crew.”
The Apprente team will be the founding member of a new, integrated, internal group within McDonald’s Global Technology team called McD Tech Labs. Over time, McDonald’s expects to grow its presence in California's Silicon Valley by hiring additional engineers, data scientists and other advanced technology experts for McD Tech Labs to meet future business needs and support deployment.
McDonald’s said the latest investment builds on several key technology initiatives the company has introduced in recent years to improve both the employee and customer experience. In April, McDonald’s acquired Dynamic Yield, a leader in personalization and decision logic technology, which is now deployed in more than 8,000 restaurants in the U.S. and is expected to be integrated into nearly all company drive-thrus in the U.S. and Australia by the end of 2019. McDonald’s will utilize this decision technology to provide an even more personalized 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 instantly suggest and display additional items to a customer’s order based on their current selections.
McDonald’s also invested in Plexure, a mobile app vendor, earlier this year to further advance the development of McDonald’s Global Mobile App.