With all of the discussion about the challenges of staffing the Nation’s restaurants, a pair of visionary entrepreneurs and their avatar alter egos have found a solution.
The two AI (Artificial Intelligence) personas, George and Becky, created by tech company ConverseNow automate a restaurant’s phone or drive-thru, fielding questions and taking orders with human-like, customer-friendly, interactive audio.
ConverseNow Co-Founders Vinay Shukla and Rahul Aggarwal, through a digital transformation company focused on restaurants, spent years in close proximity with the unique challenges of the restaurant industry. They used this incisive perspective to study the issues that restaurants face and develop the technology to overcome some of those issues.
Digitizing a restaurant’s front of house operations, through human-like personas, hopes to confront challenges with all the efficiency and speed without sacrificing the comfortable feel of a human interaction.
“Think of George and Becky as a digital crew member or a store operator,” co-Founder and CEO Shukla said. “And like the store operator takes orders today, George and Becky can take orders too. They can personalize orders. They can naturally answer customers’ questions. They can apply discounted coupons. Anything that a human store operator or crew member can do, AI does the same thing and is programmed to sound just like an ordinary employee.”
ConverseNow also tailors their software to integrate directly into a restaurant’s phone channel or drive-thru system, learning and adapting to the restaurant’s menu from a set of programmed restaurant concepts.
“Today the AI we deploy is already trained on multiple menu concepts,” Co-Founder and COO Rahul Aggarwal said, “It is trained on pizza menus, burger menus, sandwiches, burritos— all based on our previous clients— but there is still some nuance on a case by case basis that the AI needs to adapt to.”
Once ConverseNow internalizes a restaurant’s menu and operational details, a process that takes around four weeks, George and Becky, the AI personas, run the entire front of house.
“If you call to check your order status, AI will be able to tell you. If you call to check the store’s hours of operation, AI will be able to tell you. If you need directions to the restaurant, AI will be able to tell you,” Shukla said. “So now, operators can focus on culinary execution and customer interaction, not the phones.”
With the consistent efficiency of AI, there is a concern that front of house jobs, and restaurant jobs in general, could be obsolete and eliminated. Rather than the outright elimination of some jobs and a future of near human-less restaurant experiences, ConverseNow hopes that their technology will allow restaurants to deploy labor where they need it most.
In fact, some ConverseNow customers have been so inundated with orders, thanks to AI, that human employees have been more necessary than ever.
“The challenge that some of our customers face today is that AI is being able to process more orders than their staff can handle. The AI will take every call no matter what, whether it’s 50 simultaneous calls or 100,” Aggarwal said. “So I don’t think it’s a question of taking away any job from restaurant employees. It’s about optimizing the operations of a business so that the operators are focused on doing what they like to do—preparing food and serving customers—rather than sort of being on the phone all the time.”
By expediting the non-culinary operations of a restaurant, operators save time, improve customer satisfaction, and increase a restaurant’s overall revenue, according to
After a year where drive-thru, takeout, and delivery sales sky-rocketed, the ConverseNow co-Founders believe the company, and AI, will be a central aspect of how future restaurants do business.
“With more orders being processed over the phone and more customers focused on contactless restaurant interactions—whether that be through a drive-thru, contactless pickup, or delivery, people are going to need AI to provide that extra help and pick up the slack,” Shukla said, speculating on the future of dining after a turbulent year and a half. “Restaurants need support and our AI is actually programmed to collaborate with third-party delivery services as well to make business as easy and efficient as possible for operators.”
Restaurateurs and foodservice professionals can contact ConverseNow and request a demo through their website, or by directly calling (512)-333-2836.