IBM to acquire MacDonald’s MdD Tech Labs1. November 2021
IBM to acquire MacDonald’s MdD Tech Labs
New York, Nov. 1, 2021
IBM will acquire McDonald’s McD Tech Labs, its drive-thru automation technology lab, as part of a new strategic AI partnership with the fast-food company.
McD Tech Labs was formerly the conversational technology company Apprente before McDonald’s acquired it in 2019 to improve innovation for employees and customers and speed up orders.
McD Tech Labs continues to develop and test an AI-powered voice system for taking orders at McDonald’s drive-thrus. Under the deal, IBM plans to expand the automated technology to all McDonald’s stores and add new menus, languages and dialects.
The technology was tested this summer at 10 locations in the Chicago area and showed 85% accuracy in orders. Only about 20% required intervention.
Earlier reports indicated that McDonald’s plans to use the technology to identify regular customers by linking language information to license plates. Specific items would then be offered on the menu based on their order history.
A major rollout of the technology at other McDonald’s restaurants is at least a few years away, according to CEO Chris Kempczinski. Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed. Fewer than 100 McDonald’s employees will transfer to IBM. The sale is expected to close in December.