A young Israeli startup wants to help restaurants automate bookings using Facebook Messenger bots, and 500 Startups is plowing some seed cash in to make it happen.
Founded in 2014 by Ori Weisler and Yael Lador, AppFront sells itself as a real-time engagement and marketing optimization platform that uses prior purchasing data to “learn” about a brand or restaurant’s customers so they can tailor their marketing accordingly.
Now, AppFront has raised $1.5 million from a handful of angel investors and prominent VC seed fund 500 Startups — this marks its first ever investment in an Israeli startup. Indeed, 500 Startups announced its first venture partner for Israel just last year.
But alongside the investment news, AppFront is introducing Order Bot, a new chatbot designed to reduce personnel costs through automating customer queries and improving response time. The Order Bot is more than a polite conversationalist, though — it takes orders, delivers personalized information, and integrates directly into most of the major point-of-sale (POS) systems.
“Today we are enabling Facebook’s 900 million Messenger users to order their favorite food via chatbots,” explained Weisler, who serves as CEO of AppFront. “Our Bots-as-a-Service solution — or BaaS, as we call it — enables every restaurant that signs up to our service to start taking orders from their customers via Messenger.”
AppFront isn’t the first company to merge the worlds of food and chatbots — back in April, Taco Bell announced TacoBot for Slack. And the artificial intelligence-powered world of bots is entering overdrive across the board, with the likes of flight-search companies, file-search startups, Foursquare, and more embracing bots in recent months.
Though AppFront is headquartered in Israel, it also claims a satellite office in Boston. The company’s Order Bot is already being used by health-food franchise B.Good in its 35 restaurants across the New England region. AppFront hopes other eateries will follow suit.
In addition to helping push out its new Order Bot technology, AppFront will use the investment to grow the company’s existing customer engagement platform, build other new products, and boost its headcount.