McDonald’s, eager to use technology to simplify ordering and speed service, on Tuesday said it has a deal to acquire Apprente, an early-stage voice-based technology company, and plans to build its presence in California’s Silicon Valley.
The deal would be the second acquisition of a technology company by the Chicago-based burger giant this year, following its April acquisition of Dynamic Yield, and its third deal involving a tech company after it invested in mobile app company Plexure this year.
McDonald’s said the deal follows “extensive exploration with several parties” in its test restaurants.
Apprente was founded in 2017 in Mountain View, Calif., to create voice-activated ordering platforms that can take orders in multiple languages and accents. The technology is expected to allow for faster, simpler and more accurate order taking at the drive-thru, with the potential to incorporate into mobile ordering and kiosks.
“Building our technology infrastructure and digital capabilities are fundamental to our Velocity Growth Plan and enable us to meet the rising expectations from our customers, while making it simpler and more enjoyable for crew members to serve guests,” McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said in a press release.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but McDonald’s has been testing voice-activated drive-thrus all year as part of a strategy to use more technology and automation to speed service there.
McDonald’s has been working to speed service in its drive-thru, in particular, believing it is key to regaining traffic growth.
“It’s quite clear from our various engagements that McDonald’s is leading the industry with technology,” said Itamar Arel, co-founder of Apprente, in a statement.
The Apprente team will be the founding member of a new group within McDonald’s Global Technology Team called McD Tech Labs, with Arel becoming vice president of that group.
McDonald’s expects to grow its presence in Silicon Valley with the hiring of additional engineers, data scientists and other advanced technology experts to meet future business needs.
McDonald’s has already added Dynamic Yield’s technology in the drive-thru windows of more than 8,000 U.S. restaurants, giving them the ability to suggest items based on time of day, weather or how busy the restaurant is.