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AI-powered platform designed to make things easier for restaurants

David Krakow

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Gary Kraeger has created EatDrinkLocals, an AI-powered platform that uses a chat bot for restaurants. Photo by David Krakow.

Like many entrepreneurs, Gary Kraeger was motivated by the disruption caused by Covid-19.

Kraeger, of Crescent Heights, was specifically interested in and looking to help restaurants. He needed to look no further than home for motivation as he and his wife owned a restaurant in the mid 1990s, in Utica, New York, their hometown. They closed the restaurant in 1999 to start a family, but he saw firsthand how difficult the business model could be.

Fast forward two decades and he witnessed an even more calamitous time.

“They got smashed,” Kraeger said of the challenges faced by the industry during and after the pandemic. “The government didn’t help them at all. I just really had a passion for helping. I saw my wife and the struggles she had.”

Kraeger’s solution is EatDrinkLocals, an AI-powered platform that uses a chat bot for restaurants. He has about 800 users – mostly developers to whom he’s been selling for the past eight months – from his current beta phase and expects to officially start selling it to restaurants next week.

EatDrinkLocals is part of Krowd, which owns several AI-powered platforms.

The concept is simple enough: for $49/month, users will have an AI-fueled chatbot that will handle everything from marketing and inventory control to answering the phones. The business will feed the information into the bot which will then create or update a website.

The business’ social media platforms will also contain the gathered information and can be updated and revised in real time.

The cost includes unlimited contacts and messaging. Kraeger said that customers will also incur a fee of $10-20/month for their subscription to Open AI. Kraeger explained that the $49 is an introductory charge and that will increase down the line.

Kraeger performed a fake transaction to explain the service. He created a fictional law firm, and punched a potential client’s information into the app. The law firm asked what he needed help with and he shared that he was a troubled wife looking to start divorce proceedings from her husband.

The bot responded, in text, “I’m so sorry to hear you are going through this,” and then sent a prompt to schedule an appointment. Kraeger explained that beyond the current focus on restaurants, he could see the value to small businesses – especially those that act as one-person bands with someone who answers the phones, provides administrative functions and performs the service.

He also discussed a potential scenario for a pizza restaurant. If the restaurant ran a promotion for “National Pepperoni Pizza Day,” the bot could advertise the promotion then track all comments and pictures, absolving the restaurant of having to perform these functions manually. This, he said, would create loyalty, more customers and more revenue.

“We can put together audiences for you automatically,” he explained. “We can re-target everyone who posts for or comments on National Pepperoni Pizza Day.” He suggested that businesses that use Facebook for this function are “wasting their time” because the platform “lets you post then takes it away so they can charge you.”

The website advertises three key components restaurants can use to monetize their business: Mini-Tour to introduce customers to new beverage and food offerings; Paid VIP Club, subscription options that will increase revenue and loyalty; and Contest, for engaging promotions on the business’ Facebook page.

Kraeger added that the bot’s multichannel integration worked with Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google Messages as well as the business’ website, SMS and voice.

Other advantages include: automated comment replies; inbox direct messaging; voice interaction and the increased efficiency gained by automating repetitive tasks.

EatDrinkLocals was preceded by Eat Local and then, EatDrinkLocals in 2019. Kraeger explained that it got off to a slow start until Covid. The subsequent proliferation of artificial intelligence paved a path for what a chat bot could do for businesses.

Kraeger touted the ease of use of his bot, describing the process as “a child that you are telling how to do things.” He said he could make a bot for a restaurant in around 10 minutes once he had all the basic information. He explained that onboarding would be available but that it wouldn’t be necessary for most businesses.

He is not focused yet on selling the service specifically to St. Petersburg businesses, but expects to engage in a local word-of-mouth campaign at some point. He is also not concerned that the bot will replace humans, predicting that the revenue growth will create new opportunities.

“This is not the first time we’ve gone through this as a society,” he said, referencing the Industrial Age and other times when human capital seemed endangered. “It’s going to create different jobs.”

Kraeger is confident that there will be a home for EatDrinkLocals here and elsewhere. “We want to make St. Pete the chat bot capital of the world,” he said. “We’ll see if we can get there.”

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