Kea is a new startup offering restaurants the ability to update one of the more old-fashioned ways of taking orders – over the phone.
Today Kea announces that it has raised a $ 10 million Series A under the leadership of Marbruck. with the participation of Streamlined Ventures, Xfund, Heartland Ventures, DEEPCORE, Barrel Ventures and AVG Funds, as well as angel investors Raj Kapoor (Chief Strategy Officer at Lyft), Craig Flom (member of the Panera Bread founding team), Wingstop franchisee Tony Lam and Five Guys Franchisee Jonathan Kelly.
Founder and CEO Adam Ahmad said that restaurants that are constantly understaffed usually have no one to pay their attention to the answering machine. (After all, many of you are probably pretty familiar with the experience of calling a restaurant and being immediately put on hold.)
At the same time, he suggested that this remain an important ordering channel – especially during the pandemic, as takeout and delivery has become the biggest source of income for many restaurants. New Yorker Helen Rosner put it briefly when she suggested that anyone who wants to support restaurants should "pick up the damn phone."
Similarly, Ahmad said that it is "not a sustainable long-term strategy" for restaurants to pay significant third-party ordering fees on all orders. That's why Kea offers technology to help restaurants take more orders over the phone. This creates a so-called “virtual cashier” who can do the initial admission with customers, process most of the routine orders and, if necessary, hire a human employee.
The idea of an automated voice assistant can bring uncomfortable memories of trying to call your bank or other Byzantine customer service department. However, Ahmad said that while most of the existing phone systems are "not intelligent", Kea's AI is very different as it only focuses on restaurant ordering.
"We're doing a very closed domain," he said. “There are only a few thousand permutations in the pizza world. We're not innovating on the entire dictionary – it's a restricted model, it's a menu. "
In fact, the Kea team gave me a number to dial so I could try the system for myself. It was a pretty straight forward and easy process of providing my address and then the details of my pizza order. Here, too, you can switch to a human employee at any time. (In fact, I was accidentally displaced during my demo, which resulted in my being quick to hang up.)
Kea already lives in more than 250 restaurants, including Papa Johns, Donatos, and Primanti Brothers, saving them an average of 10 hours of work per week, with the average order size increasing 23%. With the new funding, Ahmad aims to bring Kea to 1,000 restaurants in 37 states by 2021.