Image via Unsplash.

Clinc, the Detroit, MI-based company known for its AI-powered voice control platform, announced today it has closed a $52 million Series B round. The investment includes cash from Insight Partners, DFJ Growth, Drive Capital, and Hyde Park Venture Partners, among others. This brings Clinc’s total funding to $57.8 million.

Last July, my colleague Chris Albrect wrote that Clinc was aiming to expand its platform, which had originally been geared towards the financial sector, into other markets. Notably, that included the drive-thru lane for quick-service restaurants. According to TechCrunch, the new funding round will help the company better expand into those new markets.

Clinc’s particular approach to natural-language understanding (NLU), which doesn’t rely on the behavioral tree structure that currently powers a lot of AI software out there, allows the platform to treat everything said it as straight data. In doing so, the system is able to conduct so-called “messier” conversations that feel more akin to a real-life interaction between two humans.

As anyone who uses the QSR drive-thru knows, those interactions can get confusing, especially when you’re ordering anything from the menu that’s complex or outside the norm, even if it’s just a half-decaf latte or a cheeseburger with no pickles or onions.

And beyond improving order accuracy, the Clinc platform is also known for being easier to use than other AI systems out there. The system features pre-built competency archetypes and can be implemented and used by anyone, regardless of whether they have a background in technology or AI. That along with a shorter onboarding process should make it appeal to a wider number of companies in the restaurant world.

Those features make the system attractive for something like the drive-thru, which of late is looking like the next great battleground for QSRs. McDonald’s raised the stakes not long ago when it acquired AI company Dynamic Yield to introduce greater accuracy and more personalization for drive-thru customers. A number of other companies have also announced their own efforts around AI, voice-ordering, and the drive-thru lane, including Valyant AI, and 5thru.

Clinc was founded in 2015 by husband-wife duo Jason mars and Lingjia Tang. The new funding round is geared towards getting Clinc to an initial public offering by 2022.

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Jenn is a writer and editor for The Spoon who covers restaurant tech and food delivery, developments in agriculture and indoor farming, and startup accelerators and incubators. On the side, she moonlights as a ghostwriter for tech industry executives and spends a lot of time on the road exploring food developments in more remote parts of the country. Previously, she was managing editor of Gigaom’s market research department and was once a competitive pinball player. Jenn splits her time between NYC and Nashville, TN.

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