PointsBud is creating an AI-enabled system to help people buy food within minutes without human interaction.

“He doesn’t look like a tech bro,” my colleague, Ngozi Chukwu, says as ‘Deji Atoyebi, PointsBud founder, sits with us for an informal product demo at our office in Lagos. Ngozi, and anyone curious to ask what we were doing, was excited about ‘Deji’s product once he explained it. I was, too.

As conversations around AI, its functionality, and unemployment fears continue to rise, ‘Deji is one of the people building artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled products that solve critical problems. In his case, he explains that his product provides embedded finance servicing in the hospitality industry.

“We just launched yesterday [August 23, 2023] at a restaurant in Lagos,” he tells me as we explore the features of the PointsBud, an AI-assisted messaging system that allows people to order products and services from different providers at breakneck speed through WhatsApp.

‘Deji Atoyebi (L) demonstrating how the PointsBud platform works to Muhammed Akinyemi (R). Photo Credit: Blossom Sabo

It took less than five minutes to order food and pay for the order from Circa Lagos, the first restaurant to get on PointsBud.  We mentioned the meal we wanted, and the AI responded within seconds, confirming the order’s availability and how much it cost before processing the order and moving to payments.

At the moment, the bot is exclusive to each restaurant. “For example, the bot I showed you,” ‘Deji emphasises, “was acting as Circa Lagos’ bot. It’s built on their menu. When we onboard enough restaurants, we will have a general PoinstBud bot where people can find restaurants and other services.”

But that’s not all.

“It’ll learn customer interests and recommend similar products in the future,” ‘Deji says, smiling coyly through the demo. Despite a slow internet connection, our order was faster than typical human response time.

But a human still has to operate the admin panel to confirm and reject orders, so that customers know the restaurant has gotten their order. In the past, the process was a human taking the order, confirming from the kitchen, and finally sorting out payments. Now, the human only does kitchen confirmation. Everything else is automated.

The admin panel of the PointsBud platform shows customer orders being confirmed by an admin.

The ex-Flutterwave engineer (for four years) promises that his team is building an integrated system that’ll be an infrastructure for businesses to have customer data and insights; so that hospitality businesses can target customers with offers, upsell and cross-sell to them faster and better than ever. “The reason why it’s called PointsBud is to provide a way for businesses to reward their customers. With all this data, it becomes possible to know what the customer likes.”

This means you can order food, book flights and hotels without interacting directly with a human at any level of the journey.

PointBuds didn’t start as an AI-enabled system. “Initially, we started with QR codes… if you scan the QR codes, it takes you to their [a restaurant’s] menu,” but getting to onboard restaurants was difficult. On one hand, restaurant owners were difficult to find and persuade on LinkedIn. On the other hand, workers made it difficult to see their managers at the restaurant. This could be because of fears that their jobs might be at risk.

When TechCabal asked Victor Daniel, a content creator specialising in food content, how he felt about the integrated AI system, he said, “I think it’ll make the experience better in the sense that it can be faster and more efficient. And since AI improves the efficiency of everything, then yeah, I want AI.”

One of the PointBud’s features is that “you can even check and track your rider through WhatsApp.” What this efficiency means, however, is that there’s at least one person whose services are no longer needed in the customer servicing queue. Victor doesn’t seem bothered by this as long as he gets his meal faster: “that’s the way the world works. Every innovation that has ever benefited humankind including myself had to come at the expense of someone’s job. We have to deal with this. In future, it’ll probably be my turn,” he tells Tech Cabal.

However, Ama Udofa, who works in the foodtech industry, thinks “anyone who wants to replace the human touch is in for a rude shock. In the restaurant industry which is more hands on than say fintech or SAAS type industries, diners are demanding more human involvement. See how QR code menus ruined table-side ordering, for example.” 

Nonetheless, he supports some automation: “I’m all for partial automation. AI working hand in glove with humans.”

While the argument on the human experience hovers, the PointsBud founder explains that they “plan to charge a monthly subscription for the usage of some of the features, payment for marketing automation and delivery tracking.”

It’s only day one at PointsBud. One can only imagine how high and in what direction they might fly in the coming months.

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Muhammed Akinyemi Senior editor

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