McDonald's acquires Israeli-founded Apprente to accelerate drive-thrus

Apprente staff, which includes employees with PhDs in machine learning and computational linguistics, will become part of McDonald's Global Technology team following the acquisition.

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September 12, 2019 09:48
2 minute read.
McDonald's acquires Israeli-founded Apprente to accelerate drive-thrus

A McDonald's restaurant's drive-thru sign is pictured in Los Angeles April 4, 2011. Fast-food chain McDonald's Corp, trying to grab positive headlines in an economic recovery still struggling to create living-wage jobs, announced on Monday that it would do all of its spring hiring in one fell swoop.. (photo credit: MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS)

American fast food giant McDonald’s Corporation has entered into an agreement to acquire Apprente, a Silicon Valley start-up founded by Israelis that specializes in conversational voice-based technology.

The acquisition of the company, McDonald’s said, will “allow for faster, simpler and more accurate ordering at the Drive-Thru,” and could be incorporated into mobile ordering and kiosks in the future. No financial details were disclosed regarding the acquisition of the company, which has raised $4.8 million in two funding rounds to date.

Founded in 2017 by Itamar Arel and Moshe Looks, Apprente has worked to improve customer service experience at fast food restaurant drive-thrus through its artificial intelligence-powered, voice-based conversational system. The system, which enables ordering of multiple items in several languages, was evaluated in McDonald’s test restaurants prior to the agreement.

“We’re excited to announce that Apprente has entered into an agreement to be acquired by McDonald’s Corporation,” Arel and Looks said in a joint statement.

“From early on, it was clear to us that McDonald’s is truly committed to technology innovation, and that it was on a mission to spearhead the [Quick Service Restaurants] industry,” the statement said. “In partnership with McDonald’s, we set out to deliver a customer-focused solution, all while building a great team and culture. We were fortunate to have achieved all of these goals.”

Apprente staff, which includes employees with PhDs in machine learning and computational linguistics, will become part of McDonald’s Global Technology team following the acquisition.

The Apprente employees will also be founding members of McDonald’s internal Silicon Valley-based McD Tech Labs, which will work together with McDonald’s Innovation Center near Chicago to accelerate the deployment of new technologies. Seeking to grow its presence in Silicon Valley, the company said it expects to hire additional engineers, data scientists and other advanced technology exports to meet its future business needs.

“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 Easterbrook.

“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.”

In March, McDonald’s announced the acquisition of Tel Aviv-based personalization and decision logic start-up Dynamic Yield for $300 million.

The company’s technology, which is now deployed in over 8,000 McDonald’s restaurants across the United States, varies outdoor digital drive-thru menu displays to show food based on time of day, weather, restaurant traffic and trending menu items.

McDonald’s plans to integrate the technology into nearly all drive-thrus in the US and Australia by the end of 2019.


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