Restaurant Voice Assistant Developer ConverseNow Raises $15M
Voice AI for restaurants startup ConverseNow closed a $15 million Series A funding round led by Craft Ventures. ConverseNow’s funding is part of a wave of interest and investment in restaurant voice tech over the last couple of years, a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and surge of contactless interactions.
George and Becky
ConverseNow used its voice AI platform to create voice assistants to handle customer orders and interactions for restaurants, particularly quick-service restaurants (QSRs). The two voice assistants, named George and Becky, are designed to improve the speed and quality of service for customers trying to get food. The AI can understand the emotional nuance in what people say well enough to respond appropriately in both language and the way it mimics human voices. When integrated into a restaurant’s system, they can offer recommendations relevant to factors like the time of day, past order history, and the weather. The George and Becky templates are also highly customizable. The client can adjust how they sound and what they say to best fit the tone they want, as a customer calling in to order food on the phone has a different kind of conversation than one pulling up to a drive-thru, for instance.
The new funding round is a significant step up from the $3.3 million ConverseNow raised last May. The startup has gathered data demonstrating that it does make restaurants more efficient and more profitable. The startup claims its tech helped raise average revenues 20% and order numbers 23%, despite saving as much as 12 hours of paid time a week for activities AI can’t do, like making and serving the food. The demand for contactless interactions due to COVID-19 also likely contributed to increased demand for ConverseNow and other voice AI services, speeding up the adoption process by restaurants and other businesses enormously.
“In the last year, with the pandemic accelerating drive-through habits and preferences, QSR operators have rapidly embraced technologies like ConverseNow to keep up with demand and optimize for efficiency and customer service,” ConverseNow CEO Vinay Shukla said in a statement. “With this additional investment, we will rapidly scale and develop other Drive-Thru solutions such as “digital line-busting” technology, which we will roll out later this year.”
ConverseNow’s funding will be useful for scaling the company quickly as it faces a far more crowded arena than even a year ago. Restaurants all over the country are trying out voice AI built internally or by developers like ConverseNow. Colorado-based Valyant AI has had a steady run of success with integrating a voice assistant into Denver’s Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard. The startup raised $4.5 million at the end of November and has ambitions for a much broader distribution of its tech. Meanwhile, popular Ohio chicken restaurant chain Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken Restaurant is augmenting its drive-thru with a voice assistant built by Israeli startup Hi Auto and Mastercard and SoundHound have added a voice assistant to some White Castle and Sonic restaurants, combining taking drive-thru orders and processing payments on the same software. And everyone is watching McDonald’s, which went from a single pilot restaurant with a voice assistant in 2019 to deploying its virtual server in 10 drive-thrus around Chicago with concrete plans for expansion and a lawsuit already filed against them over the voice tech.