McDonald’s purchases Apprente AI startup to boost drive-thru tech

McDonald’s recently expanded its tech reach by purchasing an artificial intelligence (AI) company who will work towards automating the chain’s drive-thrus.

Founded in 2017, Apprente, uses AI to understand fast food orders, aiming to speed up service times. As well as being used in McDonald’s drive-thrus, the startup’s technology can also be used in self-order interfaces, and the mobile app.

Apprente was established to develop a voice-based conversational system, delivering human-level interactions at the point of making orders.

Shortly after the company’s scientists began developing the platform, taking orders for drive-thrus quickly emerged as a perfect use for the company’s AI technology.

Apprente’s scientists will also be some of the founding members of the company’s newly-established McD Tech Labs. The institution will be based in Silicon Valley and is set to carry out research and development projects focused on integrating more tech and automation into the customer experience.

“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 McDonald’s president and CEO Steve Easterbook.

Itamer Arel, co-founder and vice president of McD Tech Labs, added: “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.

“We’ve spent the past couple of years tackling this challenging real-world task, and along the way, we developed novel machine learning and speech understanding technologies, culminating in an industry-leading, robust and scalable solution.”

This latest acquisition follows several tech-based purchases made by McDonalds over the past few months. These include the customer services personalisation firm Dynamic Yield in March.