Guestfriend automates chatbot creation for restaurants

technicalstudio | April 16, 2018 | 0 | Tech News

While chatbots might sound like an interesting experiment for restaurants and other small businesses, they probably can’t devote much time or money to building them. So a startup called Guestfriend is planning to make the process as fast and easy as possible.

The company has raised $5 million in seed funding from Primary Venture Partners, Techstars Ventures and betaworks. It’s led by Bo Peabody, a venture partner and entrepreneur in residence at Greycroft who also co-owns the Mezze Restaurant Group. Peabody compared the current moment to the year 2000, when “every small business woke up and said, ‘I need a website.’”

“That moment is coming for chatbots,” he predicted.

But rather than asking a restaurant owner or employee to go online and design the conversational flow of a chatbot themselves, Guestfriend can automatically create a chatbot based on information that’s already online — hours, menu, support for dietary restrictions and so on. In that sense, Peabody said, “It’s really just a website that you talk to.”

“The ah-ha moment was when I realized that building a bot for my restaurant was virtually impossible to do as a one-off, butall of the answers to almost any question are available online, mostly in structured APIs,” he said.

GuestFriend

Peabody suggested that the real challenge was building natural language technology that could support the range of questions that someone might ask — for example, all the different ways that people might ask about the dress code. That’s one reason why it was important to target a specific industry, though he eventually plans to expand into home services, retail, spas/salons/exercise and hotels. (“It’s really the Yelp verticals.”)

Guestfriend chatbots work across platforms, including SMS, Facebook, Twitter and Google search results (via Google My Business), with plans to support speech platforms like Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

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