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Tech roundup: Can tech fix the supply chain?

Companies that want to digitize distribution are off to a hot start in 2022. Also, Woflow raises $7 million and Virturant launches an app for its virtual brands.
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Photo illustration by Nico Heins

It’s still early, but tech aiming to improve the supply chain is off to a hot start in 2022. 

The companies making moves want to bring more digitization and automation to the routine process of ordering goods. This comes as restaurants continue to wrestle with product shortages.

San Francisco-based Cheetah this morning announced it had raised $60 million for its app that allows independent restaurants to order wholesale goods from local suppliers for next-day delivery. Cheetah currently operates in the Bay Area, but said it would use the funding from Manna Tree and Sator Grove to expand into new markets. 

And earlier this month, two companies—Meal Ticket and MarketMan—merged behind a $100 million investment from private-equity firm PSG. The duo represents both sides of the supply chain process: Meal Ticket provides distributors with data and marketing tools, while MarketMan offers software that helps restaurants manage inventory. Together, they hope to become an end-to-end service that benefits both sides of the equation.

Choco, an online ordering product for restaurants and suppliers whose main goal is to reduce food waste, raised $100 million last July in one of the biggest funding rounds of the year.

These developments aren’t surprising. After all, restaurants have been undergoing a similar shift from analog to digital channels for ordering, payment, marketing and more. It’s only natural that the same shift would come to the supplier side. 

More digitization in the distribution process is good for restaurants. It can save operators time, ease communication and improve accuracy. It won’t untangle the massive knot that is the supply chain right now, but it could help loosen it a little, and investors appear to be betting on that.

Woflow, a company that helps third-party delivery providers manage data, raised $7.5 million. The Series A round follows a $3.5 million seed round last year. The San Francisco-based company will use the funding to add to its team and continue developing its product. Base10 Partners and Construct Capital led the round.

Companies like DoorDash use Woflow to automate the process of adding new businesses to its marketplace. 

Virtual brand company Virturant is launching its own app. The Ghost Eats app, developed in partnership with online ordering company Lunchbox, will include all of Virturant’s more than 25 brands in one place, and will also have exclusive offers from celebrities and other brands. Restaurants can license Virturant concepts like The French Toastery and Uptown Burgers and produce them in their kitchens for delivery only. These would typically appear in third-party marketplaces like Uber Eats but will now have a dedicated home in Ghost Eats as well. Users of the app will be able to order from multiple of these brands at once. 

Virturant Ghost Eats logoThe Ghost Eats app will launch in the second quarter. / Image courtesy of Virturant

Some new third-party delivery laws went into effect in New York City. The measures passed in September give more protections to delivery workers. They ensure that drivers are allowed to use restaurant bathrooms and they order delivery companies to provide daily reports about pay and tips. Delivery providers will also have to be licensed by the city under a separate law now in effect. The new rules were met with mixed reactions from delivery companies.

C3 hired a chief product and technology officer. Vikram Raghavan has been chief product officer for a number of ecommerce companies including SingleCare, Slickdeals and Overstock.com, and will help the digital restaurant company find new areas for growth. He’s the latest big hire for C3, which earlier this month named Pasha Mehran as chief strategy officer. C3 currently operates 800 digital kitchens across the U.S. with brands including Umami Burger, Sam’s Krispy Chicken and EllaMia.

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