Technology

Online ordering startup Owner.com raises $15M

After almost running out of money in 2020, the company overhauled its business and has been growing quickly since.
Owner.com interface
Owner.com offers website building, online ordering and other tools for restaurants. / Photograph courtesy of Owner.com

Online ordering company Owner.com has raised $15 million as it looks to continue adding to its toolbox for independent restaurants.

The investment is the second in six months for the company, which has overhauled its business over the past two years after nearly folding early in the pandemic.

Founded in 2020, Owner was initially focused on helping restaurants drive dine-in business and reservations. P.F. Chang’s was a client. Things were going well. Then the pandemic hit.

“We went from doing well, bootstrapped profitably, to getting  zero dollars of revenue during that span,” said CEO and co-founder Adam Guild. “All of our customer relationships and cash flow disappeared overnight.”

Desperate to save the company, he started cold-calling restaurants to see what they needed. Their response: “Online ordering totally sucks for us.”

Restaurants told him they were actually losing money on online orders because of high fees. So the company quickly launched a free online ordering system for restaurants, with diners paying a 5% fee on every order.

“We went from a company that was close to running out of money … to being totally revived, thank god, because of restaurants needing an online ordering solution,” Guild said.

From talking to restaurants, Owner identified another problem: Small operators hated having to use a patchwork of different tech providers to run their restaurants. Around the time of its first investment, a $10.7 million seed round in August, Owner began to address that issue, too. It started developing more tools, from website-building to email marketing and hiring.

“We realized that we could build all of these different products into one platform,” Guild said. “Since that point, our growth has gone from pretty good during COVID to pretty crazy.”

More than 1,500 restaurants now use Owner.com, all of them coming from inbound requests or referrals, Guild said. Historically, restaurants have used bits and pieces of its product portfolio, but as it has added more tools, they’ve increasingly opted in to the whole package.

Given the expanded capabilities, Owner is no longer free for restaurants: The all-in-one plan costs $500 a month, Guild said.

The company plans to use the fresh capital to continue developing products based on what restaurants are asking for. Every employee is required to spend at least 30 minutes a week talking to operators, Guild said. Feedback gleaned from those conversations shapes the company’s product pipeline. It's currently working on a unified messaging system and a native reservations service.

“These things have all come from the mouths of our customers and their genuine and timely needs,” Guild said.

Owner is what is known in Silicon Valley lingo as a compound startup, meaning it offers multiple products under one roof. Guild said the barrier of entry for this type of company has gone down over the past decade as software has become more open-source. He also credited Owner’s team of “hacker engineers” for the company’s ability to add new products quickly.

Going forward, it will remain focused on offering more products rather than selling its existing tools to more restaurants.

“It turns out that the ‘adding more restaurants’ part takes care of itself when you continue adding more products,” Guild said.

The Series A round was led by Altman Capital and included contributions from Redpoint Ventures, Day One Ventures and angel investors including Max Mullen, the co-founder of Instacart.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.

Exclusive Content

Financing

Reaction to Wendy's dynamic pricing test reveals its risks

The Bottom Line: The burger chain mentioned last week that it would test the pricing strategy sometime next year. Consumers frustrated with prices reacted swiftly.

Financing

Why the Burgerim settlement exposes flaws in franchise oversight

The Bottom Line: The federal government allowed the chain’s founder to avoid major penalties by simply paying $1,000. What’s the point of regulation in the first place?

Food

Why the Smashed Jack sparked record-smashing demand at Jack in the Box

Behind the Menu: The chain’s newest menu addition aims to break the mold on what a fast-food burger can be, and customers are buying in.