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kea Raises $10 Million in Funding to Bring ‘Human Assisted Voice-AI’ Into 1,000+ Restaurants in 2021

kea automates restaurant phone orders but switches to human operators when orders are unclear, needs changes, or require customization for a half-cheese, half pepperoni world

Mountain View, Calif. – WEBWIRE

Restaurants are losing money because they are struggling to pick up phone orders and food delivery giants are taking away their business. While some franchises have tried to automate phone ordering with artificial intelligence, too much automation can also be frustrating and ineffective. By combining AI with human operators to customize phone orders when needed, kea is fixing the broken ordering system and delivering more revenue and profit to restaurants. 

Today, kea is announcing $10 million in Series A funding led by Marbruck, with participation from Streamlined Ventures, Xfund, Heartland Ventures, DEEPCORE, Barrel Ventures, AVG Funds, and angel investors Raj Kapoor Chief Strategy Officer Lyft, Craig Flom founding team of Panera Bread, Wingstop Franchisee Tony Lam and Five Guys Franchisee Jonathan Kelly. 

The funding will help grow kea’s engineering teams and hire 750 people to handle voice-assisted AI orders to help meet market demand and bring kea into 1,000 restaurants across 37 states throughout 2021. 

“After creating the first on-demand food delivery company, Fluc, exiting to Google Shopping, and leading other startups that focused on addressing labor shortages, I decided to dedicate my career to saving the restaurant industry,” says Adam Ahmad, Founder and CEO of kea. “It wasn’t until I took over 400 phone orders for one of the largest buffalo wing franchises in America that I realized the current ordering system was broken and kea was the solution.” 

Over 60% of restaurant revenue comes from conversational orders, and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants rely on phone and drive-thru orders for revenue now more than ever. kea has been proven to increase revenue for over 250 restaurants, including Papa John’s, Donatos and Primanti Brothers, saving approximately 10 hours worth in labor a week and increasing each order size by an average of 23%.

kea’s proprietary voice AI is streamlined into any restaurant’s pre-installed ordering systems then learns all menu items and inventory -- allowing it to upsell items based on a customer’s previous order and suggest items that either pair well with new orders or need to be sold to reduce food waste. kea also hires and trains real people to join the call 20-30% of the time to ensure everything is going well or to help finish the order. This human element is critical since AI does not always follow complex customization requests or last-minute orders and some people may not be comfortable using AI alone. 

“Just in the past two years, kea has seen demand increase exponentially amongst the nation’s top quick-service restaurants. We see kea as a virtual cashier that will not only be used for to-go orders and delivery but also drive-thru and other forms of conversational ordering,” said Lachlan Clough of Marbruck. “We’re thrilled to be an early investor in kea and look forward to seeing the company’s business continue to grow.”

kea is hiring data and voice engineers to join its team of experts from Palantir, Twilio, Uber and Walmart Labs to continue scaling the company. For restaurant owners interested in learning more information about how kea can improve ROI, please visit

About kea

Launched in 2018, kea is the fastest growing voice AI company on course to help thousands of restaurants. Its mission is to drive the world’s commerce by empowering restaurants to operate more intelligently and own their relationship with customers. kea builds products that help boost restaurant revenue through its unique ordering system that brings AI and real people together to customize and upsell orders.

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