Business Tech

Kea raises USD 10 million to build AI to help restaurants answer phone

Kea - Appy Pie

Kea a new startup is offering restaurants the privilege to upgrade the old-fashioned method of taking orders over the phones.

Kea has announced that it has raised a USD 10 million Series A. The Series A round was led by Marbruck, with participation from Xfund, Streamlined Ventures, Heartland Ventures, Barrel Ventures DEEPCORE, and AVG Funds, as well as angel investors Raj Kapoor (chief strategy officer at Lyft), Craig Flom (responsible for founding the team at Panera Bread), Wingstop franchisee Tony Lam and Five Guys franchisee Jonathan Kelly.

Kea Founder and CEO Adam Ahmad said, “Restaurants are usually understaffed, they perpetually don’t have someone who can devote their complete attention to answering the phone and take orders.”

He also said that it remains an important ordering channel, especially during the pandemic closures, as takeouts and deliveries have become the biggest source of revenue for many restaurants.

He added that for restaurants, paying substantial third-party ordering fees on all of their orders is not a sustainable and long-term strategy. So Kea is offering AI technology to restaurants that should help them handle more orders over the phone. Ahmad said that the new feature is called virtual cashier who can do the initial intake with customers, process most routine orders, and bring in a human employee when needed.

The idea of an automated voice assistant may bring back unpleasant memories of trying to call your bank or another customer service department. But Ahmad said that while most existing phone systems are not smart, Kea’s AI technology is very different because it’s only focused on restaurant ordering.

He said, “The company is performing in a very closed domain. In the pizza world, there are only a couple of permutations and combinations. We are not innovating for the whole dictionary — it’s a constrained model, it’s a menu.”

It is a pretty straightforward and easy process, where people can provide their address and then the details of their order. And as said restaurants can transfer to a human employee at any time they want.

Kea is already live in more than 250 restaurants like Papa John’s, Donatos and Primanti Brothers, and as per them, it is saving them an average of 10 hours of labor per week, with a 23 percent increase in average order size. With the new funding, Kea has a goal to bring the new AI feature called virtual cashier to 1,000 restaurants across 37 states in 2021.

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