McDonald's hopes that an investment in technology is the special sauce that will transform drive-thru ordering.
The fast-food giant announced Tuesday that it has an agreement to acquire Apprente, a Silicon Valley-based start-up specializing in conversational voice-based ordering technology.
McDonald’s said the technology understands different accents and is "expected to allow for faster, simpler and more accurate order taking at the Drive Thru" and could also be incorporated into kiosks and mobile ordering.
“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," Steve Easterbrook, McDonald's president and CEO, said in a news release.
Apprente was founded in 2017 to create "voice-based platforms for complex, multilingual, multi-accent and multi-item conversational ordering" and uses neuroscience-based artificial intelligence technology.
“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,” Itamar Arel, co-founder of Apprente, said in the statement.
McDonald's has made other recent tech investments.
In April, McDonald's acquired Dynamic Yield, a company considered a leader in personalization and decision logic technology.
The decision technology is now available in more than 8,000 U.S. locations, McDonald's said in Tuesday's announcement, and is expected to be integrated into all U.S. and Australia drive-thrus by the end of 2019.
With this technology, McDonald's says it is able "to provide an even more personalized customer experience by varying outdoor digital Drive Thru menu displays to show food based on time of day, weather, current restaurant traffic and trending menu items."
The displays also suggest and display additional items to a customer’s order based on selections.
McDonald's also announced the formation of an internal group called McD Tech Labs, which Easterbrook says will take the company's "culture of innovation one step further.”