Hungry? Chat on Facebook to order at Andheri's 'Go Panda'

Updated: Oct 09, 2016, 19:24 IST | Gaurav Sarkar

Andheri’s Pan Asian restaurant 'Go Panda' claims to be the first eatery in India to use an automated chat bot in its online system

What if you never had to download an app to place an order? Or, better, place your order on Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp? Come Monday, Go Panda hopes to become the country’s first restaurant to go live with an automated chat bot on Facebook Messenger, which customers can use to get preferred food details, prices, and recommendations. The bot was created by a bunch of youngsters who approached Yash Chandiramani (24), founder of Go Panda, with the idea three weeks ago. “Here’s how it works: instead of downloading an application like Zomato, customers can simply “chat” with the bot on Facebook Messenger, and ask it questions like “I want something spicy under `300,” he explains. The bot will recommend 4-5 dishes that it thinks matches your requirement. Bots are an integral part of most businesses abroad, including the likes of McDonalds, wherein customers talk to an automated voice machine at the drive-in to place their order.

Why it works
“There are around a billion apps available on the market today, but the average user uses only 20-30 apps on their phones — we are competing in that small a screen space,” says KG Abhishek (23), one of the five founding members of Mpower.chat, a three-month old company that coded the chat bot. “Instant messaging proves to be a great solution in such cases, since there is no download barrier; one can reach any business directly through Facebook Messenger.” The young brains over at Mpower already had the basic structure ready, and when given the green signal by Yash, moved fast to create the Go Panda bot.

“We took all the necessary details of the menu – how the different dishes are made, and included it in the coding. Now, reaching any business will be a two-click process — that’s what the game has become,” he pointed out. “Whatsapp will open up the bot chat function in the coming months and that will be a big push for people like us; we will be able to access a bigger market.”

The limitations
However, incorporating a chat bot into a business is just the first step — the challenge comes when it has to overcome barriers such as personal preferences, languages, etc. “Currently, the chat bot can only communicate in English,” pointed out Hrushikesh Mande (23), another founder of Mpower. “But we have coded it in a manner where it can understand slang words.”

The Mpower.chat team (Left to right: Hrushikesh Mande, Chantelle Menezes, Nameer Khan, KG Abhishek)
The Mpower.chat team (Left to right: Hrushikesh Mande, Chantelle Menezes, Nameer Khan, KG Abhishek)

“In the initial stages, the chat bot cannot meet specific personal preferences, such as customers’ allergies (“I am allergic to olives; can you recommend something?”),” said Abhishek. “Eventually, we aim to build all the AI (artificial intelligence) into one centralised AI. After all, we are simply a service provider, whose aim is to help other business grow on chat.”



When we tried it
When this reporter used the Go Panda chat bot, the first thing that we noticed was that responses were extremely fast. The bot was able to guide, educate, and inform us about the different dishes and the recommendations thrown up by the AI (Artificial Intelligence) were varied, and tailor-made to the kind of query asked (eg: “Can you recommend a non-spicy chicken dish?”). However, some queries, such as “How much time will the food take to be delivered?” could not be processed.

A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli

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