USA – McDonald’s has secured an agreement to acquire California based tech firm Apprente, to enable the company expand its tech capabilities in the growing fast-food sector.

Apprente develops voiced-based conversational technology powered by artificial intelligence, a technology which McDonald’s has already been testing in select restaurants.

With the acquisition, McDonald’s expects to enhance the chain’s drive thru experience for customers by offering “faster, simpler and more accurate order taking.”

McDonald’s has hinted that the technology will have broader capabilities within its restaurants and beyond, including “the potential to reach customers when, where and how they want through incorporation into mobile ordering or kiosks.”

As part of the acquisition agreement, Apprente will be founding members of the McDonald’s Global Technology team with Apprente’s co-founder Itamar Arel becoming vice president of McD Tech Labs.

“Building our technology infrastructure and digital capabilities are fundamental to our Velocity Growth Plan and enable us to meet rising expectations from our customers,” said Stephen Easterbrook, president and CEO of McDonald’s.

“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.”

Itamar Arel, co-founder of Apprente and vice-president of McD Tech Labs added “McDonald’s commitment to innovation has long inspired our team.

“It was quite clear from our various engagements that McDonald’s is leading the industry with 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.”

McDonald’s plans to grow its presence in Silicon Valley by hiring more engineers, data scientists and advanced technology experts.

Earlier this year, McDonald’s acquired online personalization startup Dynamic Yield for more than US$300 million, with the goal of creating a drive-thru experience that’s customized based on things like weather and restaurant traffic. It also invsted in Plexure, a mobile app vendor.

After closing the Dynamic Yield acquisition, McDonald’s quickly deployed its machine learning tech in more than 8,000 US drive-thrus, enabling change of drive-thru menus based on the time of day, weather, traffic and the customer’s order.