McDonald’s announcement Tuesday that it was buying Apprente, an artificial intelligence company, might seem out of character for the fast food giant, but it actually speaks to the industry’s increasingly competitive landscape.
The deal is actually the third recent tech acquisition for McDonald’s, which bought Dynamic Yield, which specializes in personalization and decision logic technology, in March and took a 10% stake in Plexure, the vendor for the McDonald’s app.
Don’t expect this to be the last deal, either. McDonald’s has a new internal team called McD Tech Labs and the company says it plans to expand its presence in Silicon Valley, hiring additional engineers, data scientists and tech experts.
Why the push? Technology can make fast food faster, helping the company cycle through customers in a more timely fashion.
The Apprente purchase, for instance, is expected to speed up customers’ experience at the drive through, with faster, simpler and more accurate order taking. That’s especially important as rival Chick-Fil-A has been winning widespread customer praise over the past year for the speed of its drive through service.
Apprente, for the past two years, has been working on technology that understands “complex, multilingual, multi-accent and multi-item conversational ordering.”
McDonald’s has already been working to enhance drive through service, utilizing Dynamic Yield’s tech in over 8,000 locations to make the menu more dynamic based on time of day or weather, boosting customer spending. That tech will be integrated into almost all U.S. and Australian drive-ins by the end of the year.
“Building our technology infrastructure and digital capabilities … 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 in a statement.