A CHATBOT built in Bournemouth is being used to book restaurant tables and answer customers’ queries.

Feebi aims to take care of routine enquiries online so staff can spend more time serving customers on the premises.

The artificial intelligence (AI) software is in use at Jenkins & Sons, the Penn Hill restaurant run by Urban Guild, and at the dessert cafe Creams in Bournemouth town centre.

It was created by Santana Studios, set up by 22-year-old Charlton Santana to deal exclusively in chatbots.

A major restaurant chain was among those expressing interest during the recent Restaurant and Bar Tech Live event in London.

Mr Santana said: “It’s always learning. The more restaurants we have, the better the AI becomes. We aim to answer at least 95 per cent of questions.“You want to be talking to your customers in the restaurant while Facebook handles the queries outside the restaurant.”

Feebi uses Facebook’s Messenger platform and also appears on the restaurants’ websites.

Users sign up for a free trial and begin by asking a series of questions about their business, its opening hours, menus and policies.

“We use AI and machine learning to figure out what people are saying and using that information it figures out the response to the user,” said Mr Santana.

He added: “Instead of a restaurant getting a chatbot built for £5,000-£15,000, we built it on a SaaS – software as a service – based model. A restaurant can put in their information within 15 minutes and, for £30 a month after a 30-day free trial, it runs on their social media and website.”

The business, based at THIS Workspace in the Daily Echo building, received advice from Silicon South, the non-profit organisation supporting the local digital economy.

Santana Studios is also looking at commercial partnerships with online table-booking systems who would add Feebi to their platform.

There were 1.3billion monthly users of Messenger as of June this year, and 2.5bn users of Facebook’s four apps in total.

Mr Santana believes booking via Messenger will be more popular than restaurants’ own apps.

“People don’t want to download apps on their phones to book a table. They just want to message someone on a platform like Messenger,” he said.

Matt Lawrence, group marketing manager at Urban Guild, said a trial was going well at Jenkins & Sons.

“Customers are able to ask questions like opening hours and menus. They get instant replies and the instant gratification of finding out if we’re open tonight and what’s on the specials menu,” he said.

“If they get stuck, they can ask to speak to a human and one of us can take over and continue the conversation. We can still have a dialogue with them.”