Jeremy Julian

199. Kea Transcript

August 5, 2023

kea.ai voice edit

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

restaurant, talk, ai, order, brands, phone, years, love, adam, call, app, guest, cashier, voice, learning, customers, pizza, restaurant industry, experience, work

SPEAKERS

Adam (68%), Jeremy (32%), Intro (1%) 

I

Intro

0:02

This is the restaurant technology guys podcast, helping you run your restaurant better

JJ

Jeremy Julian

0:14

Welcome back to the restaurant technology guys podcast. We thank our listeners out there each and every week as we come out on the airwaves and share a little bit more about the cool areas in restaurant technology that we’re learning about. Today is not going to be any exception. Today we are joined by extremely special guests and I’m, I can’t wait for Adam to introduce himself. But Adam, why don’t you introduce yourself to your audience who is Adam a mod and and then we can talk a little bit about what you get the privilege to do. Amazing. Jeremy, thank you so much for having me here. Huge fan of the show. So it’s a bit surreal for me to actually be here after listening to you for so many years. My name is Adam Ahmad. I am a serial entrepreneur. Currently, I’m the founder and CEO of Kia, which is a voice AI company that is helping restaurants really defeat the labor shortage effectively augments a cashier in the cloud that is deployed at restaurants to answer the phone. Previous to this I spent the last better part of the decade helping restaurants from food delivery and a labor shortage app. And really, really have dedicated a lot of my career towards helping restaurants, especially the last 10 years hope to do the next the next 10 years the same really, really passionate about helping restaurant owners. Well, I appreciate your modesty. But why don’t you tell us a little bit more about some of that background kind of the your last 10 years. So Mattel tell us a little bit more what have you done in that space that that it gets qualifies you to have our listeners go, oh, this dude’s somebody really worth listening to? Because he solved some problems before and, and and where you’re at now. I know. We’ll dig super deep into that. Yeah, no, totally. So it really starts I would say back in 2012, I had a chance to go to Penn, you know, had stars, my eyes, being at Wharton, studying economics. And effectively, you know, I told my mom and dad, I’m like, Look, I’m really into tech, I want to take a year and go out to Silicon Valley and try my hand at a startup and they’re like, what do you what are you talking about?

AA

Adam Ahmad

2:17

And, you know, after that whole ordeal, ended up going out to this hacker house where I found on Airbnb, basically 40 people living in this massive mansion, you know, 20 bunk beds and Airbnb at the time that this particular one was 15 bucks a night for, for bed. And, you know, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know what the idea was going to be. I just knew that I you know, growing up was very enamored by technology and wanted to be in the tech Arena in some way, shape, or form, you know, grew up doing all sorts of eBay businesses and tech was always something very close to my heart. And so showed up at this Airbnb with, you know, kind of stars in my eyes. And I did actually end up getting a bunk bed. They’re like, routed bunk beds. But by the way, there’s a desk over there, where you can put a blanket underneath it, and you’ll have to pay the same price. And I’m like, What is she talking about? That’s crazy. But, you know, the guys who were there were doing their PhDs at Stanford, they’re writing code on the wall. And it really got me even more excited about being a part of this Silicon Valley community. And so, one of the biggest problems at this house was actually food, you know, you get all these new Airbnb airs every day. So if you buy groceries, you open the fridge, and all of a sudden, you see, like, half your breads gone, you know, the cereal is like half empty. And so we find the guy with the car would all jump into the car and go down to downtown Palo Alto, Mountain View, wherever we could go grab a bite to eat. And this whole ordeal, you know, because we were up in Los Altos Hills, kind of farther away from the restaurants, like this is taking us an hour and a half, two hours every day. What if we just got somebody paid them, you know, 1015 bucks, and got them to deliver some food to our house. And all of a sudden, you know, of course, myself and a couple of my engineering buddies were like, wait a minute, this could be like an on demand app, where literally any restaurant could deliver McDonald’s, our favorite restaurant, aurons, homeless, all these, you know, different favorites that we had, we could we could actually just put up the menus on on the site and have people order as we’re prototyping this app. Three weeks later, two miles away on Stanford campus. DoorDash launches for the very first time. And back then they weren’t called DoorDash. It was called Palo Alto delivery. And so we were like, wait, wait a second. We’re doing the same thing. And all of a sudden, here we are prototyping an app. We call it food lovers United company, and fluc for short, I tell you see, and I

AA

Adam Ahmad

5:00

We’re basically head to head with with Palo Alto deliveries slash DoorDash. And, you know, started out as a delivery driver ended up calling restaurants went door to door to try to get these commission deals. And all of a sudden, here we are building a delivery business, head to head with with these guys. And we ended up going couple 1000 restaurants deep before the company was ultimately gobbled up by Google Shopping Express. So got to be, you know, on the ground, did operations to sales was very much into that experience. And just love the whole fact that many different constituencies are benefiting here, right? There’s the driver, there’s the restaurant, right? And then there’s the consumer, building that marketplace, I think, was definitely a labor of love. And I think it inspired me to really continue the journey, right, I almost feel like should have stayed in a little bit longer, but at the time, didn’t know what I was doing. It was 20 something years old. And we ended up you know, having that business too well, after that. Wanted to continue the journey kept kept in the restaurant space, and help this company out called next force technology where, let’s say Jeremy, you’re you have five McDonald’s in the Bay Area, I’ve got five McDonald’s, both of us are really hurting on labor, rather than us hiring new people. As franchisees. Imagine combining those labor forces together, you pulling out an app as a manager and saying, Hey, I’m down a cashier, I don’t have enough people. Why don’t I just hit request for a cashier, I want to Jeremy’s cashiers could actually come to my location. And vice versa, we’ve kind of share people with one another, again, grew that to a few 1000 restaurants, McDonald’s being the marquee client of ours, and just very much learned the the pain of not having enough people inside the restaurant, right? I think it really started around 2015 The rise of the on demand economy, Uber UberEATS, DoorDash, right. All these on demand gigs, why work a six hour fryer shift when you could go and work two hours in the morning on Uber two hours at night and Instacart. And so this huge phenomenon, I think became is continuing to be the norm, right, the more preferred work type of work that people want to do have that flexibility, whereas you can’t really do that in the restaurant space. And, you know, as I’m going to restaurant restaurant, going to all these conferences, going to all these fac meetings with with, you know, a lot of these large franchise groups, everyone’s talking about labor. It wasn’t until I’m in Vegas 2017. At a Wingstop conference, the CFO goes up on the stage and is addressing all the franchisees and he’s like, Guys, we’re hurting so bad on labor, that really there’s three areas where we’re really, you know, being challenged, number one, it is guest satisfaction, our Yelp reviews are at least one star lower than they were last year. And that’s, that’s obviously a very big deal out of five. Number two food is taking longer to cook because of the lack of labor, it’s going from 17 minutes to get an order out the door to now like 22 to 25 minutes, which means the lines are longer out the door, which means of course less sales ready, see that long line at lunch, can’t can’t be bothered waiting that long, you’re gonna go somewhere else. And then the last thing was that 60% of the phone calls that are coming in result in Hey, can you please get a hold, and you’ve got three or four or five phone lines sitting inside the store that are just going BBB or you know, just flashing with a little red light on the phone I think every restaurant owner can resonate with with that problem. And you know, all of a sudden, people just don’t want to wait, they hang up. They try calling back I’ve seen call logs where people are calling 15 times even back to the store just to try to reach their favorite restaurant on a Friday night. And it’s it’s impossible, right? You’re driving. Usually these are customers that will pull out their app while they’re driving. They just want to call on their way back home from work. And the sales aren’t aren’t being materialized. To give you perspective, that’s for a brand like a Wingstop or, you know some of these larger pizza chains like a Domino’s Papa John’s that that could result in several $100,000 Lost in sales over a course of a year. So it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks after hearing these stats that when the guy went to the next slide, he’s like we’re going to use all of our, you know, hiring subscriptions, you’re gonna keep a full pipeline. And as I’m sitting in the chair, you know, selling this labor app evangelizing, getting more people in stores, even our own stats were kind of going down. We were we were filling in less people in these shifts than ever before, right because of this lack of, of labor. And then of course, the pandemic hit, and that hit it even harder. And so Anyways, long story short, got inspired by this experience, wanted to actually test the theory, are we really losing that much business? Is it? Is it really true that we’re losing 50 60% of calls? So went to an owner in San Jose, I said, Hey, I want to do an experiment with you. I want to take over your calls for a weekend for them. Here’s my cell phone and just answer call after call. Hey, thanks for calling Wingstop is this for pickup or delivery? What can I get for you today? Try to upsell them on the calls really trying to maximize that value of every transaction, as if I was just the dedicated resource, only answering phones. And by the end of that weekend, we compare apples to apples like, what were the sales that cashiers were able to do? And what were the sales, just me doing this full time. I was up about $3,800, over just one weekend, while doing this, you know, manually, right, we ended up doing it for a full week, got a couple of other guys around my dining table, or, you know, slinging wings trying to sell the extra fries. And in aggregate, according to the previous weeks compared to what we were able to do. We were up about $5,600, on average, across a couple of restaurants. And it became very clear that this is something that needs to be autonomous, right, that this is this is really where the industry has to add, whether it be robotics, right, you know, doing the actual production, whether it be you know, taking these phone calls or answering you know, common guest questions inside the restaurant or outside of the restaurant and a drive thru. I think ultimately, if we look at, look back at the next 10 years, this is truly I think, going to get to feel like the the renaissance of of AI voice AI particularly, which, which we’re extremely excited about. And, you know, here we are doing voice AI for Forbes specifically for restaurants on the phone or ringside.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

12:07

Well, I guess that that’s really, you know, you you went through that whole backstory, which is awesome. And I love the history and not gonna lie that the I’m a little bit older that that I my I’ve got younger siblings that did the Silicon Valley thing. And I’m like, That’s not real. And they’re like, no, no, dude, I have a brother that went to San Francisco State. And so he’s like, no, no, I totally know all of these people that like went straight from college, straight into this world. And I’m like that, is that really happened. So I love that you, you shared a little bit of insight. Sleep

AA

Adam Ahmad

12:38

has happened. But I am so happy that I took that leap of faith when I did and had very supportive parents, which of course helped help me that gap. Yeah,

JJ

Jeremy Julian

12:49

no, I love that. I love that. And I mean, I love that that really is a story. And so you talked about kind of where what got you there? Why don’t you give a little two minute story on kind of what is Kia, where are you guys going? Because for our audience out there, a lot of times when I talk to people about solutions like yours, their experience was voice AI was calling American Express was calling Delta Airlines. And that’s the AI experience that they haven’t go and and most people, most restaurant tours that I talk to look at me and go, there is no way a computer is going to be able to deal with the complexity of that problem. The other thing I get, which I’d love, you know, we can talk a little bit more about throughout the conversation is is get that many phone calls. So why don’t you give a quick overview of what is voice AI? And how is Kia solving that problem? Yeah, absolutely.

AA

Adam Ahmad

13:41

And I always love you know, starting this with, you know, what, what does actually Kia stand for. And so the the definition of a Kia is actually it’s a species of a parrot. In New Zealand, it’s the smartest bird in the world. And the idea was similar to how you know, parrot, you know, learns what you’re, you’re saying kind of repeats it back similar to the voice AI. We’re doing the same, you know, for restaurants to start. But taking a step back, you know, giving you that that kind of spiel on where we started, how we got here, back in 2017, to where we are now and how we think about the world. It’s dramatically changed right back then. It was, look, we’ve got this phone ordering problem. It’s very clear. You know, it’s it’s very difficult for 234 humans with 15 calls coming in at the same time to be able to answer at the same time. It’s almost impossible, right? And even in that that continues to be the state of the world today where you know, the labor is dwindling, it’s still very difficult, if not more difficult, post pandemic. And so, just again, taking a step back how we think about the world. Now is that really what Kia is building for the future is is ultimately the voice for mean any business, right? Whether you are a hair salon, whether you are a doctor’s office, or you know, an oil, you know, oil, or mechanic at an oil change place, you’re getting all these calls for random things that you can’t actually fulfill, right? We almost see ourselves as the Shopify for for any business, right? We want to be that front where you can actually now get all those leads in and fulfill them with by leveraging technology, right, particularly on the voice side, we’re starting with restaurants, right? We really feel that

JJ

Jeremy Julian

15:38

it’s an easy one, right? You know, schedule a schedule, schedule a haircut at a at a hair salon, you know, you started with, with super complex because as, as you obviously are aware, and all of our listeners that live in this space, restaurants are pretty complex, you know, organisms that move and change and pivot and, and then you then you’ve add the guests element on it with, you know, hundreds of 1000s of guests a year. It just it only, you know, exemplifies the the challenge.

AA

Adam Ahmad

16:05

Yeah, totally. It’s, it’s kind of a beast beast of a problem to solve from from a technical angle. And sometimes I think back like, why didn’t we do the the other thing, I think, going back to just my background, my passion, I really love restaurants, I’ve seen kind of the blood, sweat and tears, these guys put in just having that extra helping hand, what it does to their businesses, transformative, right, so really gravitated towards that originally, I think we’re going to continue to over the next several years play within this space, and help really wherever voice is being used within the restaurant, to help help them augment what otherwise a cashier would do. Right? An attendant would do, and help, you know, augment that that human effectively, right and be that extra virtual helping hand in whichever format that may be.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

16:59

Yeah. So again, just for our listeners that may have not heard it, that the idea that Adam and his team are building is the ability for a computer for an AI and take the word AI and almost replace it with a computer to be that responsive person as if it was a staff member that you’ve trained. And so Adam, you talked about a statistic from the from the Wingstop presentation that kind of inspired you to go there, that was quite shocking to me. But probably more real, and now even more real than it was back in, you know, 17 or 16, or whatever it is that you heard that, which is that 60% of calls get put into a place of getting put on hold. And again, talking with restaurant owners, they’re like, no, no, no, we don’t get that many phone calls. Or you have no idea we’ve got we’ve driven everybody to the app, I guess combat those those things that you are also likely hearing from your prospects and customers that says, we’ve already got a solution to solve that problem. Just go to the app, and it’ll solve it or, or whatnot. But it was shocking to me to hear that 60% of calls get put into a wait state, which means there is some level of attrition and people saying I’m not putting up with that. Wait, I’m out. And so you know, losing those sales and evidence by your weekend around the dining room table doing that yourself. So talk to me a little bit about about for those people that don’t believe that this is truly a problem worth solving? How would you how would you address that concern? And that comment?

AA

Adam Ahmad

18:32

Yeah, so I think, contrary to popular belief, the phone is actually the dominant way that we place orders here in the States and globally. It’s an even bigger phenomenon. Right? If you look at the door, dashes of the world, when they went IPO, you’ll hear a lot of the execs in the room. And even a lot of publicly traded online ordering companies say our biggest competition is actually the phone. People still think it’s the fastest and easiest way to order. And technically it is you think about the phone, there’s no UI, you don’t have to download an app, wait 30 seconds, create an account, add everything to the card, figure out how this app works, put your credit card information, it’s as you know, five to seven minute ordeal versus say hey, like a large, you know, P cheese pizza, two liter coke and a cheesy bread. And then you’re done. But because of the constraints again, in the restaurant industry, it’s become a very cumbersome experience, right? We waiting on hold, maybe you’re calling several times. You might not be hearing the other person on the other end really well. Could you say that again? I didn’t quite get your delivery address. It’s a very, it’s become even a very subpar experience, I would say up until now. And you know, up until our company Kia and a couple of peers have actually started to tackle this problem in a first class way. And so, again, going back Contrary to popular belief, it is the dominant way that orders are placed over the, for the restaurant industry. If we look at the entire industry, to put that into numbers, globally, we spend $200 billion ordering via voice. And 60 60 billion of that is over the phone. So, you know, obviously, you’ve got your drive thru and other other ways you can order but 60 billion is what we’re talking about. So very, very large amount. And, you know, I would say it’s, it’s quite complementary to online ordering and mobile ordering. Right? It’s, it’s, it’s a modality where it’s just, it just works. It’s easy. Again, you’re driving in that situation, what’s the easiest, you press a button, you start talking, you place your order versus, you know, as you’re tracking your vote in your hand, it just doesn’t work. So situationally, you know, we often see that the phone ordering customers are actually mobile ordering customers and vice versa. It’s, it’s a very symbiotic thing. And I think what’ll happen over the next several years is as voice gets better and more autonomous and more human like, it’s actually going to, I think flip flip the curve a bit. It’s going to be more people ordering via voice in different formats, right, whether that be Siri Alexa, your actual phone, or other voice devices. But as it gets better and better, it’s going to, I think, take the lion’s share of the market against mobile ordering and online ordering.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

21:37

Well, I think I think, you know, I was about to say before you before you hit on that point, Adam, which is I, there’s brands that I won’t order from via voice, because it was such a bad experience. So many times. There’s other brands that I won’t order on digitally, or through the third party delivery apps, because it’s been such a bad experience. And so they’ve lost me as a consumer in that modality, they may not have lost me as a consumer altogether, but they’ve lost me in a consumer, you know, as a consumer, because you know, what, there’s times that I’ve called brands and I’m sure we’ve all done this, where you call and you wait on hold long enough, while you’re driving to the restaurant that you might as well just shown up and, and walked in and ordered, because you got it in 30 seconds before you showed up. It’s like, Dude, I got a 10 minute drive. And, and, and I wanted I called because I wanted it to start cooking so that it was only there for five minutes. And then we’ve got my buddies who are like, all call it in. And then they leave right away, because it’s a place that has alcohol and they might go have a beer too, while they’re waiting for the food to be cooked. And so yeah, in general, there’s brands that for me, personally, I’ve lost, they’ve lost my phone order, because it was such a bad experience. And so I’d love to have you, you know, to use the technical term. Double click a little bit on why you think that that voice ordering is going to become that that dominant way Is it because of just ease and you know we’ll even look at my phone for even the weather. I asked Alexa, for the weather in the morning when I’m getting dressed. Because it’s easy. I mean, for me, selfishly, it’s easier to do that than to dig around, go find my phone, go click on the weather app to go figure out do I need pants on? Or do I need shorts on or whatever, you know, whatever it may be. I happen to live in Texas as summertime so I’m always wearing shorts but different different conversations. So but I guess why do you believe that voices can become so much more dominant than then even digital as time goes on?

AA

Adam Ahmad

23:27

Yeah, so I think I think right now if we look at the current state, like you just mentioned a great example you talk to Siri so what’s the weather and then you kind of kind of stop there if you even if you throw it another thing or two, it’ll often get confused and be like Sorry, I didn’t I didn’t quite understand that because you could you help me out here and say that again. And that’s a very subpar experience. The reason I believe that it’s going to be so much better and it is already better in specially when what we’re doing the restaurant the restaurant use case is that now you can do things that are multimodal, you can actually say things and then basically change your mind and be like hey actually no I want this and it will understand you it’ll it’ll comprehend that versus I think you know the state of the art of what we know it has always been Hey, do this one thing and it’ll tell you that one thing and that’s it and you kind of have to go step by step by step almost kind of like an IVR tree. We’re pressing one to do this or to to do that. And that’s I think what what when people think like voice AI they think they immediately gravitate towards that but the state of the art now with all these large language models that are that are coming out and are at the cutting edge is the fact that you can go multimodal and make it first class experience right you can you can throw voice AI several different things and have it comprehend. Right and I think that is a tectonic shift. From where we were, you know, 510 years ago, even being able to actually do what you would think, you know, obviously humans can do and to now have a voice AI be able to comprehend and do those things a multi multimodal is something that I think we really dreamed up but but now is actually becoming a real reality. And so we’re doing this in, you know, in the restaurant industry. But imagine, you know, you wake up and like you said, you asked for the weather, you maybe haven’t read your emails, and you say, hey, for lunch, I want so and so. And it actually just does it, right, the AI just comprehends and does it, versus you having to again, do all these things with your hand at the moment. And you have to do kind of you got to open in that instance that I just explained, you’re, you’re opening three different apps to do this, the same thing versus just saying it have a more beautiful and easier experience. It’s it says if you’re talking to someone, and it’s like you have your own, basically personal assistant that’s always there for you in the background.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

26:09

Well, and the thing that that I try and remind our listeners about and I’d love to have you talk a little bit about it, Adam as the you talked about these, these, these huge language models, everybody’s you have to be living in Iraq to not have heard about chat GBT over the last, you know, six months or so, in general, though, talk to me a little bit about how the AI is different than an IVR. Because that IVR is very static. It’s somebody set it up to say, push one, push two. And then recorded voice recordings that go along with that we’re ai i think is so powerful, and I want our listeners to understand is is every day, it’s getting better every single transaction it’s learning, and is learning what’s working and what’s not working. And it’s going to continue to get better. So talk to me a little bit about why you think that’s so powerful. And such a departure, you talked about it as a tectonic shift. It’s such a departure from what we’ve had in the past. And I’d love to, to have our listeners get a little bit of education on why that’s so critical to getting us to where the utopia is where I do have a voice AI in my pocket that knows who I am, and knows that I like to drink green tea, and I know that I like to, you know this than that, versus my wife who doesn’t like green tea, and you know, she likes, you know, sweetened low and I like you know, Splenda or whatever, you know, whatever it is in our tea. So, you know, but but these are things that people don’t quite grasp that don’t live in the space every day. And so I’d love to have you help help them understand that.

AA

Adam Ahmad

27:36

I can’t pinpoint the actual analogy here. But it’s almost a shift I’m talking about, it’s like going from dialog to you know, go into that high speed internet and beyond really what we’re talking about in terms of shift with the IVR. It’s very binary, right? It’s very static, it’s if this than that, you’re not, you can only do so much. And it’s not it’s not free flow. It’s not conversational, right. It’s very rules based, versus what AI is doing here. It’s basically, again, it’s it’s allowing you to be like human, it’s allowing you to talk how you would otherwise talk to the cashier that would that always has picked up your phone on the other end for years. And you being able to have this natural free flow of dialogue. And the system’s being able to pick up exactly what you’re saying. Ask the follow up questions, right. And, by the way, all that time, it’s also learning who you are. And you know, upselling you on your favorite drinks that you forgot, perhaps or the brownie that that you always get that you you no longer use for whatever reason you might have forgotten really making you feel like a VIP every single time versus a brand new customer, right? Like sometimes you call these restaurants and you don’t even know they don’t even know who you are and your regular for the last decade. shouldn’t be like that in today’s today’s day and age. So really, what what, what I what I what I stress is that it’s the true human conversation is now possible with AI. It’s not it’s no longer press one to do this. Okay, you went through a couple of different prompts. Okay, now press three, you can go from you know it rather than pressing that one to just going from one to five to back to one to four, whatever in as very simple conversational dialogue, versus having to go through hoops and really frustrating customers along the way, right. The first thing that I’m sure you know, many of us that are listening, it’s like the first thing you do is you hit zero when you hear these, these bots right? It’s just so annoying because we’re you

JJ

Jeremy Julian

29:47

scream representative into the phone. Let me talk to somebody.

AA

Adam Ahmad

29:51

Exactly. And exactly. And so I think over the years that’s another thing too that people need to understand that this technology is coming in It actually really works, you got to give it a shot. Sometimes you hear that AI voice and you’re like, Yeah, this sounds like something I’m gonna hit zero on. And we see that happen today, right? There are a certain subset of customers that won’t even won’t even give it the time of day, because of the nuances of, you know, the IVR set they’ve experienced for, you know, for a very long time.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

30:22

Well, and that, I guess, some, you know, is always been intriguing to me, Adam, and I think it’s something that’s critical for people to understand is, is, it’s not a binary decision as well, if a restaurant brand chooses to move forward with a solution like yours, or any of the competitors that you alluded to, there, it’s not like the guests don’t have a choice. You know, McDonald’s learned early on that when they said, you’re only allowed to wander through a kiosk, there are guests that are not going to want to do that, and they’re going to lose them, or they’re going to throw a fit or, and it’ll turn into some viral Tiktok video of somebody screaming at a key is trying to get what they want. So, guess talk to me about the opt out, I’m a guest tonight, you know what I know that, or the AI can’t get me what I want. I’ve got four children, two of them are extremely picky. And so from time to time, it’s not a menu item, they have all of the ingredients, but it’s not a menu item. And so the the AI or a kiosk or an online ordering site, may not be able to do that. Whereas a human might be like, Oh, we can put that all of that together. So which I think AI is gonna get there. And I think if it’s not there today, it’s certainly going to get there where it can understand that that language, but for those consumers that choose not to engage with it, what does that process look like? And if I was a restaurant tour, and I, you know, I can get 50% of these orders into AI, it’s that much better. And then it goes to 60. And then it goes to 70. So talk to me a little bit about how that works.

AA

Adam Ahmad

31:46

Yeah, that’s phenomenal question. And I think, at IKEA, we have a very pragmatic approach around this, that I think customers really love, right? Restaurants really love consumers really love. We are the only company that offers true human the loop capabilities. Okay, so what I mean by that is, let’s say you’re you’re ordering with AI, everything’s going great. All of a sudden, you go through a tunnel, rather than, you know, what what others, you know, in the space are doing, which is trying to repeat, you’re trying to ask you what the question was, again, right, or really make you go back to that AI, we actually have a different approach. And so what happens in those situations is we trigger, you know, think of it as like a bad signal. It’s like, hey, this customer needs help, we got to bring in some help. And so an agent representative from our side, will actually jump into the middle of the call and take over think of it, as you know, going from the Tesla Autopilot, you’re getting like a little bump on the road, and you’re like, Oh crap, I need to take over, right, this is this is our version of that effectively, where we’re basically taking control of the wheel, and making sure that guest doesn’t get irate. They, they have help, right, they have a real human being, that jumps in and takes care of the rest of their order. They’re not having to repeat their order or anything like that. It’s literally coming in, think of it as a baton pass, and boom, you know, they take the rest of their order, we confirm the order and off, it goes into the POS system. So that way we capture the order, right, we’re not sending it back to the store and making the cashiers have to, again, take the order, it is a true fully service solution, where Kia is taking all those calls off the frontline and doing doing them.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

33:39

I think that’s an amazing portion of the solution that I think, again, prevents people from from going there. And I know for years, there was a guy that I know that founded sink three who did call center stuff. And they had a similar solution when they started doing, you know, Steve and I would talk about it, he’s like, Yeah, we try and do as many as we can. But you know what, at some point somebody at the local store needs to talk to this guest. And so, you know, we got to be able to figure out how that baton pass. And so I love that you guys have figured out that the last piece I want to dig in on Adam is just there’s 7000 ways to order things. There’s, you know, I don’t know 300,000,300 30 million people in United States, if you’re just focused on this vertical, all of us speak differently. All of us have different you know, we’re not we’re not speak like a robot. And so you’ve got voice inflection, you’ve got secret menu items, you’ve got the way that I’ve been going to the store. I’m a regular and I always used to talk to Susie and Susie knows what I want. And, you know, talk to me a little bit about how you guys are tackling those challenges, whether it’s accents, whether it’s weird menu items that come about, you know, I guess let’s talk through that because I think that’s another hindrance that a lot of people don’t. They can’t conceive of a world where somebody can a computer can comprehend as well as they, you know, and you live in that computer world. I’m talking to my CTO recently. You’re talking about Tesla, I happen to drive a Tesla. I don’t say it to brag, but it’s just the computers constantly learning i It’s a computer with wheels and a motor. That’s really what it is. It’s just constantly learning of road conditions, and how do you drive and when my wife gets into it, it’s a different experience than when I get into it. Same with your, your AI in your pocket. But for those that don’t comprehend, that the AI can learn these things, and you can train it to evaluate a burger is the same thing as a sandwich at a burger joint is the same thing, as you know, these different ways that people may be able to do that, and the accents are gonna change, but the computer can learn that. So let’s talk through that, that, I guess, misnomer, where people are like, Ah, you’re not gonna be able to understand this as well as the human might be able to?

AA

Adam Ahmad

35:44

Yeah, no, it’s a very, very complex problem. And so, you know, we’ve been doing this for 556 years. And it’s like, every time we engage with a new brand, it’s like, holy crap, we just, we just found ourselves a brand new can of worms to solve for, right. And it’s very exciting. Because, you know, even though it does, it has taken a long time to get to, you know, very much autonomous state in some brands. It it’s exciting because you see a path there is there is a path, regardless of how long it takes, we can kind of see, okay, we got to solve for these types of things within our our own models. To give you perspective, an average pizza place has about 26,000 permutations of how you can order different things. Wow. Oh, yeah. So you can imagine for a company like ours to be able to learn that it’s not like you just snap a finger, and all of a sudden, you know, you’re you understood all those 26,000 permutations. So we do a couple of different things here. A, we take a very buy versus build approach when it comes to things that we can leverage that are off the shelf that help us understand the you know, the NLU aspects, the actual speech to text acts, but aspects, right, that’s been done by by the greats in the industry for the last, you know, 1015 years. And we’re not, we’re not in a position to go reinvent reinvent the wheel there. So we, we take those off the shelf, and we implement them at Kia. And then the actual model part, it’s a constant training, right, we even like I said, even if we start with a with a great pizza place today, a great burger place today. And we’ve done all the listening into calls, we’ve tried to map out all the different permutations, there’s always going to be that new situation, that new ways somebody said an order, they might have said, for example, I want to meat lovers pizza, and that a different and what they really mean is they want to meet some pizza, because it’s it just sounds a little bit different at a different brand. And so now we have to categorize all the different ways. People might, we might say something, but they they actually mean something else. So I would, I would I would compare it to really this is this is a marathon, right? We’re, we’re not trying to say, hey, we want 100% automation. Today, we actually think of it as look, we’re going to start with 15%. And we’re going to start going from 15% Autonomous to, you know, maybe 18 19% In the next couple of months and and keep building it. So ultimately, it does do what everything that you want it to do. Right. But it’s a very, very methodical approach. And that’s why we have humans in the loop we tell our customers like, look, this is part of the plan, right? We we think that if if it was 100% Autonomous on day one, it actually would be a subpar experience. Yeah, it would, it would really not understand the customer truly. And it would ultimately go back to the store. And we see that in implementations, right, we see others that are trying to do that. And we try to do it fully autonomous before, but it you know, just kind of fell fell flat on its face. It’s like, Look, we’re not we’re not quite there yet. Let’s learn about the brand. You know, these guys have been doing their their menu and their customers have been there for years. How can you learn that in in one day? You can’t. One other thing I’ll say is that whenever we do work with these brands, it’s almost like they’re helping each other out. These models are getting better. Yes, you had a pizza place and you had another pizza place? Well, reality is those pizza places aren’t actually too different from one another.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

39:33

So only four of the 26,000 permeations are probably. And you’ve only really got to now manage for that 2000 or whatever.

AA

Adam Ahmad

39:40

Exactly, exactly. So we want to we’re continuing to take learnings from other brands applied on the other so that slowly but surely there will be a world where AI is actually doing majority of this and we can feel comfortable in doing that because it’s had enough run time it’s had enough learnings. I think we’re still In the early innings of that, and our way to bridge this, this world into reality is, of course having that that human in the loop there who is also helping and train and helping train the system, as well.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

40:13

So I’m going to ask you to look into the crystal ball to use that analogy. Where’s it going? Adam? Is it going to a place where everything is going to be autonomous, the cashier at the store is going to be autonomous is not just dealing with phone orders? The you know, I’m gonna have some digital robot that’s going to take my voice order, is that where it’s going? You know, talk to me about the future of where you think voice ordering, an AI is going to impact the restaurant industry. Three 510 years from now.

AA

Adam Ahmad

40:44

Yeah, I think when I think about this, I get the goosebumps because it’s already happening happening in in many, many states around the country, you look at Donatos Pizza, one of my favorite pizza places. And you know, the grody family who founded that is actually now deploying, they have already deployed like a an automated pizza maker, effectively, it’ll, it’ll build the entire pizza, without any human intervention. And it’ll even put it got like a pepperoni cutter that will cut the pepperonis and place them on top of the pizza perfectly, you know, with a, you know, enough space in between and everything. It’s incredible. You know, you see miso robotics, doing some phenomenal work, as you’ve probably seen with the flippy, inside of White Castle, wherever, you know, burgers are being flipped fries are being made autonomously. You see, I really see that there will be humaneness restaurants, in the very near future, it will become more economical, right I compare this era to where the PC was, you know, 10s of 1000s of dollars, right? It’s it’s cost a lot right now to get into this space. But, you know, by having the technology, you’re, you’re paving the path to be a front runner in the space, right, by embedding these systems. And by by us, you know, commercializing this more, it’ll make it more cost effective for other brands to jump on the bandwagon. But some of the larger chains, which we have the privilege of working with today, they’re already implementing this, right? They’re thinking about how do we, how do we put this across all of our other brands and get the testing going, so that we’re ready for this future, which, you know, is going to look like 30 bucks an hour, right? On the coast, that’s already the case, here, we’re fully loaded, you’re paying 30 an hour in the next couple of years with inflation? Are people really going to pay $15 for a cheeseburger? I think you know, at that point, you’re gonna start to see even even more significant decline in same store sales growth. And so I really, you know, if I were to look in that crystal ball, I think, I think we’re already seeing those signs of having that that fully autonomous world come to fruition, similar to how you know, Tesla is creating that autopilot. For all their cars, I think the same is going to happen within the restaurant space, whether that be from food production, to actually taking down orders to delivering the orders. We were in for, I think a really, incredibly exciting roller coaster ride. I

JJ

Jeremy Julian

43:23

love it. I love the love the vision of where you think things are going. And I do I agree with you that that’s something that is coming, how quickly it’ll come and how fast consumers are adopted. Nobody ever knows. But But I think it’s pretty awesome. The other thing I guess I would say is is is I would hope. And I’ll put that out into the world that the engines that are living within the stores, the POS systems, democratize their ability to get this data into them, no different than the web did, you know, web two and web three did so that companies like yourselves can continue to innovate, because oftentimes, that’s the sticking point. That is the friction point is getting the order to where it needs to get to to be part of the standard workflow that the staff has to happen. So that will be a critical part of it. And I guess I’ll just go on record to say that that is going to be critical to getting to this utopia that we talked about where where these things can happen. So, Adam, is there anything that we missed in our conversation? I know we were butting up against time. Is there anything that we missed that you would want our listeners to, to know about before I ask them, or to ask you how to get in touch with your team?

AA

Adam Ahmad

44:29

Yeah, no, I think I think the last point you mentioned I just want to I just want to mention that the world is really I think, to your point becoming very much open as opposed to five years ago, all these POS systems all these providers didn’t really want to open up their systems. But now that that’s really, I would say dramatically shifted right? We’ve got incredible partners like Noah glass from Olo. Who’s really made it easy for startups like us to be be able to join the ecosystem without having to spend, you know, the decade plus that he did to be able to push orders into into the POS by doing integration after integration after integration with what’s really as you know, a very, very fragmented market. So you know, and you know, seven heatsink from par, right? Same thing, same philosophy, all these, these doors are being opened for companies like ours. And I think that’s truly accelerating and pushing the future forward, as opposed to kind of having that more closed mindset and not allowing, you know, innovators to innovate and push the industry forward. So really, really excited about that. And I will just say that, you know, if anyone’s interested in this technology would certainly love to speak with them. Feel free to visit us on our website at CES kia.ai. You can book a demo with us try out and see actually how the voices interact, how orders happen today with restaurants, and get in touch with us there.

JJ

Jeremy Julian

46:03

I appreciate that. I’ll throw that in the show notes. So it’s a it’s Kia, not it’s k e a.ai. Just for those that are audio only because they may be out shopping for a new car, you know, since they may think of think of the Kia, you know, automobile manufacturer. So, Adam, I love the backstory, I love what you guys are doing. I do believe that it is the way of the future, I do believe that it’s going to continue to grow. And I appreciate all the hard work that you guys are doing to help help drive that behavior and drive the capabilities for consumers to get a better guest experience because that’s ultimately what we talk about a lot on the show is how do we deliver a better guest experience and so, to your listeners, guys, we know that you guys have got lots of choices. If you haven’t already subscribed to the show, whatever your you know, mechanism is to to capture the content we did launch on YouTube have been also posting on on LinkedIn. So if you your preference is to go to YouTube or your preferences to see it on LinkedIn. Connect with RTG on both of those platforms. Adam, thank you so much for your time and to our listeners make it a great day.

AA

Adam Ahmad

47:09

Thank you so much Jeremy.

I

Intro

47:12

Thanks for listening to the restaurant technology guys podcast. Visit restaurant technology guys.com For tips, Industry Insights and more to help you run your restaurant better

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