Amazon is making investments to get Alexa out of the home.
Through its Alexa Fund, Amazon has invested in SevenRooms, a New York-based hospitality startup that specializes in restaurant software, the companies announced in a joint statement on Wednesday.
The investment is Amazon’s first into a company that runs restaurant operations.
“Our goal is for Alexa to be available wherever customers want to interact with her, and we see tremendous potential for voice interactions in the workplace and other enterprise environments,” Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund at Amazon, told Business Insider via email.
“In the restaurant industry, specifically, we see an opportunity for voice technology to help workers reduce friction, make smarter decisions, and deliver more personalized guest experiences. We are excited to work with SevenRooms towards this goal.”
Per Amazon’s rules regarding Alexa Fund investments, the amount raised was not disclosed. SevenRooms previously raised $8 million in a Series A round led by Comcast Ventures in December 2017.
SevenRooms founder and CEO Joel Montaniel said the company decided to take an investment from Amazon due to the company’s singular focus on the customer.
“Amazon’s focused on the customer experience,” Montaniel said. “So are we. We’re just focused on the hospitality space.”
The two companies will immediately get to work integrating Alexa and SevenRoom’s dining-room technology.
Anyone with an Alexa-enabled device will be able to use it to make a reservation with any restaurant that is a SevenRooms client.
But what’s more interesting is what will happen behind the scenes. SevenRooms’ technology remembers customers and their preferences. That means it will already know your favorite wine if you order it a lot, and it will remember an allergy if you’ve told staff at a SevenRooms-affiliated restaurant about it before. That information will be at the fingertips of those serving you.
Right now, many of those details are given to staff through screens.
“There’s a perception that they’ll be looking down at their iPad or looking down at a profile as opposed to actually making eye contact with the guests and greeting them warmly,” Montaniel said.
With the integration, Montaniel imagines a situation where staff can ask Alexa about a particular table or customer via an in-ear headset.
“It’s really going to be incredible because they get all of the information and they get it now while still being able to provide that warm hospitality,” Montaniel said.
To address any potential privacy concerns, Montaniel said he is focused on making user data both viewable and editable for customers, making data “a two-way conversation.”
Still, he doesn’t anticipate too much trouble for users.
“Hospitality is one of the few industries where we believe consumers actually do want businesses to know more about them, because it will actually create a better experience,” Montaniel said.
Most Alexa Fund investments have been related to voice technology or at-home applications, and SevenRooms is one of the first companies that puts Alexa to work to serve customers outside the home. It could represent a future where Amazon sees Alexa not just as a service for the home, but for everywhere.