ConverseNow Voice Assistant Takes Over Phone Orders at All Corporate Anthony’s Pizza Restaurants
Restaurant voice AI startup ConverseNow’s voice assistant has begun answering the phone at all Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza & Wings locations owned by the company. The 60 Anthony’s that are not franchised out by Anthony’s parent company, BurgerFi, have embedded ConverseNow into their phone system to take a customer’s order and then use its speech-to-text capability to inform the kitchen of what they need to make.
ConverseNow customizes voice assistants for restaurants to use on the phone or in the drive-thru. The ConverseNow voice models, code-named George and Becky, are designed to understand both what a customer asks and the emotional tone behind what is said as a way of determining how to react. The AI is also capable of offering recommendations based on time of day, weather, and the customer’s personal order history.
Anthony’s restaurants take more than half a million phone orders a year. ConverseNow will handle all of the incoming orders, including customer loyalty numbers and any resulting rewards. The idea is to use voice AI to cut costs while maintaining customer satisfaction and even boosting order sizes. ConverseNow claims it has raised the average check by as much as 20% and saved restaurants as much as 12 hours of labor a week. Anthony’s expects average checks to rise by as much as 12% thanks to the AI assistant.
“There’s no question that automation is the future, which is why Anthony’s was an early adaptor of this technology. Anthony’s started testing AI two years ago with different vendors,” BurgerFi International CEO Ian Baines said. “Initially, the technology appeared somewhat inconsistent. However, the longer it runs, the more responsive it becomes as the algorithms learn to react to the customer order and then upsell. With ConverseNow’s technology, Anthony’s is taking the system to the next level for faster service and an improved customer experience.”
Voice AI has rapidly become mainstream in restaurant operations, as with Panera Bread adding OpenCity’s voice AI to its drive-thru lanes around Rochester, NY. Phone integration is seeing a spike at chains like Marcos Pizza, and will likely accelerate thanks to SoundHound’s deal with Square to add its phone-based voice assistant for restaurants with Square’s popular payment service. The divide between corporate and franchise stores is also becoming a theme as Checkers struck deals with both Valyant AI and Presto to embed a drive-thru voice assistant at its franchises and corporate-owned locations, respectively, with Presto soon planning to go public on the stock market through a SPAC merger. The bigger names in hospitality aren’t ignoring voice, either. McDonald’s has widened its pilot testing of a voice assistant after selling McD Tech Labs to IBM and beginning a collaboration to develop an automated drive-thru service late last year.
ConverseNow has raised nearly $30 million, including $10 million earlier this year. $28.8 million after a $15 million raise a year ago. ConverseNow plans to continue scaling up by leveraging the new capital. More than 1,200 restaurants use ConverseNow, including some Domino’s Pizza and Blake’s Lotaburger locations. The Anthony’s deal is undeniably a major boon for ConverseNow and could get its foot in the door at other BurgerFi brands.
“Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza & Wings is a phenomenal business. We are delighted to work with a leading brand in the restaurant industry and help it benefit from technology that allows it to make better use of its human capital while maximizing its delivery and pick up orders generated by its phone and voice channels,” ConverseNow CEO Vinay Shukla said. “Through our best-in-class technology, we will further support Anthony’s mission to provide its customers outstanding service.”