Restaurant tech startup ConverseNow announced this week it had raised a $3.25 million seed funding round for its platform that uses AI to automate the process of ordering food. The round was led by Bala Investments with participation from LiveOak Venture Partners, Tensility Venture Partners, Knoll Ventures, 2048 Ventures, Bridge Investments, and Delphi Display Systems’ CEO Ken Neeld. It brings ConverseNow’s total funding to date to $3.3 million.
ConverseNow’s CEO Vinay Shukla says part of the Austin, TX-based company’s new funds will go towards improving the AI that powers its platform.
That AI allows restaurants to automate and personalize the ordering process for customers. Restaurants can integrate it across multiple sales channels (drive-thru, mobile app, etc.) to increase things like order accuracy and make better personalized recommendations based on a customer’s order history and other data. The platform integrates with restaurant POS systems as well as back-of-house kitchen displays.
AI is a hot topic when it comes to speeding up service and improving order accuracy in the restaurant. McDonald’s put the conversation squarely in the spotlight last year when it acquired Dynamic Yield and installed the company’s AI tech in its drive-thrus. Starbucks has in the past claimed AI is “a very important part” of its overall strategy. And a survey from the end of 2019 found that 71 percent of customers are “amenable” to having more AI in their restaurant experience.
If the same survey were given now, that figure would probably be higher. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most restaurants to pivot to off-premises orders, and even as dining rooms slowly reopen, states’ guidelines recommend keeping to-go meals a priority. That in turn will mean more people going to the drive-thru and ordering via off-premises channels such as websites, mobile apps, and even the good old-fashioned telephone.
The other plus of AI right now is its ability to increase contactless ordering and payments. In the restaurant tech stack, it’s the tools that can offer more seamless ways to provide these things that will provide the most value.
ConverseNow said in the press release that its tech is already being used by “leading QSRs.” In addition to improving its AI platform, the company will also use the new funds to improve customer acquisition.