Restaurant Voice AI Startup ConverseNow Raises $3.25M
Austin-based artificial intelligence and voice tech startup ConverseNow has closed a $3.25 million seed funding round led by Bala Investments. ConverseNow offers quick-service restaurants (QSRs) a voice AI platform to automate the contactless interactions that are very in-demand during the current COVID-19 health crisis.
The ConverseNow platform lets restaurants create a customized voice assistant to interact with customers, handling orders, delivery, drive-thru, and related elements of getting food without needing a human. The AI aims to make the process faster and easier on both ends without requiring a person to take the order or even a touchscreen, just someone on the phone talking to a virtual server. The AI is designed to understand not only what people say, but their intent and the emotion in their voice, responding as appropriate and learning from each encounter how to perform better on behalf of the restaurant. Using the voice AI also ups a restaurant’s capacity for taking orders without needing to split staff between the kitchen and a serving area. With the new funding, the startup plans to augment its current features and bring its product to new restaurants.
“We’re building a unique plug and play technology that will allow QSRs to use AI as a Service. The platform is already being used by leading QSRs and has demonstrated a measurable 25% increase in order value,” ConverseNow CEO Vinay Shukla said in a statement. “The funds will enable ConverseNow to further enhance its technology, significantly increase its sales, and continue to grow its customer base.”
ConverseNow is part of a growing ecosystem applying voice AI to restaurants. For instance, McDonald’s acquired voice tech startup Apprente last year to help develop the voice assistant-powered drive-thrus that it started testing in Illinois, while Chipotle uses voice assistants to let people reorder favorite meals. There are also other startups like Valyant AI bringing voice tech restaurants. There’s also Curbie, a chatbot launched by digital agency RAIN after mass quarantines began to make it easier for restaurants and other small businesses to offer curbside service to customers, without them needing to go into a store to get their purchase. The spread of AI to restaurants is likely to surge this year as a result of the ongoing health crisis shutting down most in-person dining and limiting how many people will be working in a kitchen. At-home cooking and recipe look-ups are way up in response, but not everyone can cook professional-quality meals. Tools like ConverseNow that may make restauranteurs and customers feel safer will be crucial to enticing people to go out for food again.