CHICAGO – McDonald’s Corp. is adding to its stable of tech company acquisitions with a recent agreement to acquire Apprente, a developer of voiced-based conversational technology powered by artificial intelligence. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but McDonald’s entered the agreement after trials of Apprente’s technology in McDonald’s test restaurants.
McDonald’s expects the acquisition to expand its tech capabilities in general while enhancing the chain’s drive thru experience for customers. However, McDonald’s hinted that the technology will have broader capabilities within its restaurants and beyond including “…the potential to reach customers when, where and how they want through incorporation into mobile ordering or kiosks.”
Mountain View, California-based Apprente was founded in 2017. The company specializes in complex, multilingual, multi-accent and multi-item conversational ordering. As part of the acquisition agreement, Apprente will be founding members of the McDonald’s Global Technology team called McD Tech Labs.
“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 of McDonald’s. “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 plans to grow its presence in Silicon Valley by hiring more engineers, data scientists and advanced technology experts.
“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 Itamar Arel, Ph.D., 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 acquisition of Apprente is in line with McDonald’s strategy to improve the customer and employee experience using advanced technology. In March, McDonald’s entered an agreement to acquire Dynamic Yield, a company specializing in personalization and decision logic technology based in New York and Tel Aviv, Israel. Dynamic Yield’s decision technology changes McDonald’s drive-thru menu displays based on time of day, weather, current traffic and trending menu items.
And earlier this year, McDonald’s invested in Plexure, a mobile app vendor, which is tasked with advancing the development of McDonald’s Global Mobile App.
In the first quarter of 2019, McDonald’s converted 400 US restaurants to its Experience of the Future (EOTF) model, which includes mobile ordering and pay via the McDonald’s app, McDelivery and enhanced customer service with digital kiosks and table service. The conversions bring McDonald’s total EOTF restaurants to 8,000, or about 60 percent of its restaurants in the US. The company expects to complete approximately 2,000 remodels in 2019. The company’s goal is to convert all of its US restaurants by 2022.