Technology

AI voice supplier ConverseNow acquires fellow provider Valyant AI

The deal is expected to accelerate ConverseNow's AI drive-thru business and help both companies scale faster.
ConverseNow co-founders
Rahul Aggarwal and Vinay Shukla co-founded ConverseNow in 2018. | Photo courtesy of ConverseNow

Two of the biggest suppliers of AI voice ordering for restaurants are joining forces.

ConverseNow, which uses AI to automate restaurant phone orders, is acquiring Valyant AI, a provider of AI-powered drive-thru ordering, to help accelerate its fledgling drive-thru business.

The combined company will have a footprint of more than 2,000 restaurants, including Domino’s, Wingstop and Blake’s Lotaburger on the ConverseNow side and Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s for Valyant. Valyant is also an approved vendor for Checkers and Rally’s franchisees, although it is not live in any of those restaurants. 

The deal will result in a better all-around voice AI product, ConverseNow co-founder and CEO Vinay Shukla said in an interview. 

Both companies were founded in 2018 and offer similar technologies: AI voice bots that can work the phones or drive-thrus for fast-food restaurants. But each has some unique advantages that the other lacks.  

ValyantAI brings to the table an innovative piece of hardware that will allow ConverseNow to expand quickly to more drive-thrus. The device is used to clean and process audio. 

ConverseNow has been developing a drive-thru system of its own, but supply chain backups on the hardware side have slowed it down, Shukla said. Acquiring ValyantAI will help speed that up. 

ValyantAI’s voice bot, Holly, also has a strong upsell function that will be incorporated into future versions of the combined company’s software.

ConverseNow’s strength has been its ability to scale voice AI across multiple restaurants and brands, Shukla said. That is possible thanks to a menu management tool that allows the system to adapt quickly to menu changes such as limited-time offers or out-of-stocks. 

“If you don’t have solid menu management, you can’t scale for restaurants, because menus change frequently,” Shukla said.

For now, service will remain unchanged for restaurants who use either ConverseNow or Valyant. But in the third quarter, the company will begin rolling out a new system to customers that incorporates features from both firms. Restaurants will notice better upsells; better data on things like service time and accuracy; improved closure rates; and the ability to deploy AI more quickly, Shukla said.

They’ll also get access to a brand-new product: an AI assistant for restaurant employees that will allow staff to ask work-related questions and get an instant response. ValyantAI developed the system and has been piloting it with a few brands, and ConverseNow will be able to help scale it.

Pooling their resources will also allow the combined company to make AI more affordable and accessible to more than just the biggest restaurant chains.

“Bringing it all together, we can really disrupt the market,” Shukla said. 

Voice AI is gradually taking hold at restaurants as they look to reduce labor costs and boost sales. But progress, especially in the drive-thru, has been slow. McDonald's last month said it was ending a three-year test of the technology, and a large fast-food chain has yet to fully embrace it—though that day could be coming soon

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