SOCi, a digital marketing company that works with restaurant chains and other multilocation companies, is going all in on artificial intelligence.
The San Diego-based company has raised $120 million to help develop a line of “Genius” products—tools that use AI and machine learning to automate marketing tasks.
The funding was led by JMI Equity, a private-equity firm focused on software companies, with contributions from Vertical Venture Partners, Blossom Street Ventures and Renew Group Limited.
SOCi helps chains like Jersey Mike’s and Taco John’s manage local marketing on social media, listing sites and other platforms. That includes things like responding to customer comments and making sure local listings are up to date. It now wants to use AI to automate some of that work.
“SOCi’s customers have thousands of marketing decisions to make across hundreds or thousands of locations,” said Afif Khoury, SOCi co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “The opportunity for optimization is incredible, but at such a scale it’s stunted by true human capacity issues.”
That’s where SOCi’s Genius products come in. The first Genius tool uses the OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot to instantly respond to online customer reviews.
The company did not detail what else Genius will be able to do, but said it will make “highly intelligent and impactful marketing decisions while also automating time-consuming marketing tasks at scale.”
SOCi will also use some of the funding to get into new business segments, specifically manufactured goods.
The news shows how text-based AI software like ChatGPT could make its way into restaurants. The chatbot uses what’s known as a large language model to generate human-like responses to questions and other prompts.
A recent report from investment bank Credit Suisse noted that ChatGPT could be used to respond to customer reviews and comments as well as create content for social media, write menu descriptions and market products based on the weather.
Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.