Restaurant Voice AI Startup ConverseNow Raises $10M
Restaurant voice AI startup ConverseNow raised $10 million in a funding round led by Enlightened Hospitality Investments (EHI). ConverseNow is one of the mushrooming number of voice AI startups for engaging with restaurant customers, with a particular focus on drive-thrus and other quick-service restaurants.
ConverseNow designs voice assistants for restaurants, with the two voice models, code-named George and Becky. The idea is to use conversational AI that can understand emotional nuance as well as language in order to better serve customers once integrated into a restaurant’s system. That means not only taking orders, but offering recommendations based on time of day, weather, and personal order history. The voice AI can be deployed as part of a phone system or within a drive-thru speaker. The new funding from EHI, co-founded by Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer, brings ConverseNow’s total funding to $28.8 million after a $15 million raise a year ago. The company boasts a presence in more than 1,200 restaurants across most of the U.S., including Domino’s Pizza and Blake’s Lotaburger. ConverseNow plans to continue scaling up by leveraging the new capital.
“We are incredibly honored to partner with the hospitality leaders at EHI and USHG as we look forward to our next phase of growth,” ConverseNow CEO Vinay Shukla said. “Even after last year’s 12x revenue growth, we’ve come a long way in 2022. Just about every restaurant chain is looking at voice AI, and naturally coming to us as the category market leader. Demand is very strong, and one of our biggest challenges has been ramping upour AI to keep up with this demand, so an additional round was necessary to accommodate this customer growth without needing to raise a full Series B.”
Voice AI is becoming a more common element in the restaurant business of late, with new funding and partnerships helping boost its presence. Recent examples range from McDonald’s expanding voice AI testing at drive-thrus after selling McD Tech Labs to IBM to PolyAI’s system appearing in Beefeater restaurants in Britain. SoundHound recently inked a deal with Square that will accelerate that trend by integrating its phone-based voice assistant for restaurants with Square’s popular payment service, similar to how the startup Kea operates. Restaurant chains like Marcos Pizza are coming out with their own models, while Checkers has struck deals with both Valyant AI and Presto to embed a drive-thru voice assistant at its franchises and corporate-owned locations, respectively.