Review websites like Yelp and OpenTable have been both a bane and a boon for restaurant operators for years, who often struggle to deal with and respond to harsh or misleading reviews. But at the same time, they could be a crucial discovery tool for new customers. But can review apps and websites become more social? Atmsofy is an emerging restaurant review app that just raised $12 million and claims to update the decades-old static review websites with an app that draws inspiration from TikTok, by letting customers post short-term video reviews about restaurants. In return, operators can claim their business and choose to boost customer videos to draw in potential guests scrolling through the app.
In other news this month, voice AI technology continues to make headlines as Checkers and Rally’s added the first Spanish language drive-thru AI to its drive-thru, and ConverseNow began partnering with Google Bard and OpenAI to improve its voice AI technology.
Tech Tracker rounds up what’s happening in the technology sector of the restaurant industry, including news from restaurants, vendors, digital platforms, and third-party delivery companies. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know and why:
Atmosfy — the social video review app — raises $12 million in seed funding
Atmosfy — a social video platform for dining and nightlife — has raised $12 million in seed funding led by Redpoint Ventures and will be scaling the live short-form video app worldwide. Much like Yelp, Atmosfy is mainly consumer-facing, but operators can claim their business on the app and can boost specific content in real time to get more eyeballs on their page during peak times.
“The traditional review landscape that lives on text and photo hasn't really evolved much in the last 10 or 15 years, so this is a gamechanger,” Michael Ebel, founder and CEO of Atmsofy said. “These are positive, authentic, unvarnished video reviews that are posted in the moments that allow people to get a sense of what it’s like to be there in person….it allows businesses to be able to reach into their specific city and reach locals that are actively deciding where to eat and drink… which gives them the ability to drive awareness, promote real time specials and discounts and drive foot traffic in a meaningful way.”
By its nature, Atmosfy is more positive than Yelp, as customers would want to really post engaging video content of restaurants they like, rather than don’t like. While this could skew reviews for consumers searching for a place to eat, it could be a positive social marketing tool on the operator side.
Atmosfy currently has one million businesses on its platform in 10,000 cities around the world, and is available for iOS, Android, and mobile web. In the future, Atmosfy will be rolling out QR codes that businesses can add to their restaurants to encourage patrons to post on social media to increase buzz and engagement on the app.
AI Voice technology continues to make strides
AI voice assistants in the drive-thru lane and in other areas of the restaurant continue to be some of the most popular applications of AI technology in the foodservice industry. Here are updates from several AI voice technology companies and operators:
- ConverseNow is partnering with Google Bard and OpenAI to add generational AI capabilities to its next generation voice assistant that can talk more naturally with guests and anticipate their responses. This latest version of voice AI will be available for drive-thru and phonebanks in 2,000 restaurants across almost all 50 states.
- DoorDash jus added AI voice ordering capabilities to its suite of options for restaurants that can answer multiple customer phonecalls simultaneously, adding to the portfolio of restaurant capabilities beyond just delivery services.
- Checkers and Rally’s partnered with Hi Auto to roll out the first-ever Spanish language drive-thru AI offerings, after a five-store test of the product designed for multilingual guests, including in the Miami-Dade area.
- Soundhound is now partnering with ChowNow online ordering and markering platform to help operators field customer calls using AI 24/7 in more efforts to help quell the continuing labor shortages industry-wide.
Voosh now uses AI to respond to customer disputes
Assistance from AI isn’t just for answering phonecalls or manning the drive-thru lane: Data analytics platform, Voosh, just launched an AI-driven dispute manager to help restaurants automatically tackle third-party delivery errors and issues without relying on their own labor to do so. The company uses AI to analyze customer behavior and create responses to reviews, and will also file disputes with third-party delivery companies on the operator’s behalf.
“With multiple locations operating across multiple third party marketplaces it becomes practically impossible to handle every dispute manually,” Ben Kaplan, cofounder and CEO of PLNT Burger told Nation’s Restaurant News. “With such tight margins on these orders, we can’t afford to miss even one of these disputes and expect these orders to be profitable. Having software like Voosh that can aggregate all of these disputes into one place, allow our operations team members to learn from them, and allow us to take action to recover these funds has already justified the additional expense of adding Voosh as a layer to our tech stack.”
Grubhub adds on-demand delivery
Now restaurant operators that utilize Grubhub as a marketplace but opt in to self-delivery can request last mile logistics help from Grubhub on a per-order basis for a flat $5 delivery fee. The feature, which is meant to help give restaurants a boost during busy times, is now available to operators Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, D.C., Seattle, Chicago and Denver.
"We've heard from our restaurant partners that they welcome the convenience of this feature and like having alternate fulfillment options that don't require hiring additional staff,” Liz Bosone, vice president of restaurant success at Grubhub said in a statement.
Flytrex launches autonomous order pickup
Flytrex, the drone delivery company, has unveiled its first completely autonomous delivery capabilities with Autonomous Pickup. The feature, which is currently being utilized by Papa Johns and Little Caesars, allows drones to pick up orders from restaurants and fly them directly to customers homes, with no human intervention or middleperson required.
Superorder operating system announces funding and AI capabilities
Superorder—the all-in-one delivery and takeout operating system for restaurants — announced a $10 million round of Series A funding led by Foundation Capital that will be able to fund new generative AI tools within the operating system’s portfolio. New AI-backed features include a website builder, menu curator, marketing software and financial management system.