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Tech roundup: C3 makes next move with digital food halls

The growing ghost kitchen company also hired more than 20 new leaders. Plus, Salted raised $9 million for its healthy virtual brands and BentoBox added three people to its C-suite.
Rendering of Citizens food hall interior
Rendering of the Citizens food hall in New York / Photograph courtesy of C3

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Ghost kitchen company C3 has been busy lately.

It has a growing roster of proprietary brands and its own app. It has deals to put kitchens in hotels and apartment buildings. And now, it’s opening its own vertically integrated, digital-first food halls.

Citizens food halls are slated for New York and Atlanta, with Seattle, Miami and California locations in the works. They will feature C3 brands such as Krispy Rice, EllaMia and Sam’s Crispy Chicken, and will be powered by C3’s Citizens Go technology that includes a recently unveiled ordering app.

Customers will be able to order delivery and pickup from any combination of C3 concepts from the food halls. But Citizens will also offer more experiential elements. The New York location includes a grab-and-go market and wine classes, for instance, and the Atlanta food hall will have sit-down dining.

The company believes the mix of on-site and virtual channels will help it expand its brands nationwide.

“With C3 and (parent company) SBE, we really believe in the front-of-house guest experience and creating a brand and experience that can then be translated to an online experience,” Joey Simons, C3’s VP of operations, told Restaurant Business last month.

The New York Citizens will open this summer in Manhattan West, a new food and retail hub in the city’s swanky Hudson Yards development. The Atlanta location will open next year in Phipps Plaza, a mall in the city’s upscale Buckhead neighborhood.

If that’s not enough news to make your head spin, C3 is also hiring more than 20 people to help support all of these developments. They include Michael Israel, former senior manager of culinary development at Cheesecake Factory, as chief of culinary development and award-winning bartender Yael Vengroff as head of bars and mixology programming.

Salted raised $9 million to grow its better-for-you virtual brands. The company operates “digital-first” fast-food concepts focused on healthy ingredients including Moonbowls, Cauliflower Pizza and $5 Salad Company. They are available primarily for takeout in 17 cities in the U.S., though it recently opened a brick-and-mortar Moonbowls restaurant in Los Angeles. It plans to grow to 80 locations by the end of 2022.

Notably, Salted has its own full-stack technology platform and kitchen software, which it says helps maintain consistency and efficiency across locations.

Kamine Development Corp. led the seed round with contributions from Craft Ventures, Valor Equity Partners, Proof Ventures and Wonder Ventures.

Moonbowls exteriorPhotograph courtesy of Salted

BentoBox added three leaders to its C-suite. The company that powers websites and ordering for restaurants hired a CMO, COO and chief people officer following a record year.

CMO Darcy Kurtz is the former VP of global product marketing for email marketing company Mailchimp. She will lead product and brand marketing that highlights how restaurants use the service.

COO Dan Chapman most recently was head of business strategy and operations for Fullstory, a digital experience analytics company and has also worked with McKinsey and Google. He will lead sales and operations for BentoBox.

Chief People Officer Jessi Marcoff is coming off chief people officer roles at software companies Privatar and Brandwatch. She will help build the team and define the company’s culture.

BentoBox works with more than 7,000 restaurants and offers services such as website creation, online ordering and marketing tools.

A California bill would make delivery fees more transparent. The legislation awaiting Senate approval would require third-party delivery companies to include a full cost breakdown of each order for the restaurant and the customer.

The list of fees associated with third-party delivery orders has grown longer in the past year as local governments sought to limit what delivery companies can charge restaurants. Companies like DoorDash and Uber Eats have responded by adding new customer fees to counteract the price controls. Under the bill, each of those fees would need to be spelled out on the receipt.

“This bill ensures customers and business owners can understand what they're being charged,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. It passed the Assembly last week by a margin of 55-8 and now goes to the Senate.

POS provider HungerRush acquired online ordering company 9Fold. The deal will give restaurants access to 9Fold’s ordering products as well as its digital marketing platform that is focused on getting customers to order directly from restaurants rather than a third-party service. The new technology adds to HungerRush’s extensive suite of ordering, loyalty and analytics tools. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Yelp upgraded its advertising tools. Of particular note for restaurants is a new custom location targeting feature that will allow them to place ads in specific geographic locations. Previously, ad radius was limited to the area around a business’ physical location, a factor that has become less important as more business shifts online. The new tool expands the range where ads can appear. For a look at all of the new features, click here.

Yelp custom location targeting interfacePhotograph courtesy of Yelp

In case you missed it …

A New York City bill would force delivery companies to share more data with restaurants.

Olo is betting big on virtual brands.

Here are five ways to improve your third-party delivery business.

Ghost kitchen company All Day Kitchens raised $20 million.

Grubhub unveiled a first-party ordering product for indies.

Portillo’s invest in its self-delivery partner, Cartwheel.

DoorDash defied expectations in Q1, thanks to its most frequent users.

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