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Tech roundup: Consolidation is one answer to restaurants’ tech challenges

Companies flush with cash are buying other providers in pursuit of an end-to-end product. Also, ResQ raised $39 million, Uber Eats closed on Drizly and more.
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Photo illustration by Nico Heins

About a month ago, I wrote about restaurants’ frustration with the fragmented state of technology. In short, there are too many tech products, and a lot of them don’t talk to one another—and that’s making operators’ jobs more complicated.

Now, tech companies flush with cash are attempting to address that problem by consolidating. There have already been two major acquisitions this week—Popmenu bought OrderNerd and Fiserv bought BentoBox—and both buyers cited the desire to offer better integration as a factor. My inbox tells me there are more deals like this to come. 

Why now? Restaurant tech is enjoying a huge influx of cash as more restaurants turn to technology amid the pandemic. More than $5 billion has flowed into the industry via fundraising, IPOs or acquisitions so far this year. Some companies on the receiving end are using that money to buy others in hopes of being able to offer restaurants an “all-in-one” system.   

By buying delivery integration provider OrderNerd, for example, online ordering company Popmenu is adding another tool that restaurants can plug and play through a single vendor.  The deal was financed at least in part by Popmenu’s recent $65 million Series C funding round. 

CEO Brendan Sweeney said the company’s goal is not necessarily to provide the best-in-class version of each product, but rather to offer restaurants simplification.

“It’s much more about, we’re a destination for people who want something that’s all-in-one out of the box,” he said.

In other tech news …

Equipment repair service ResQ raised $39 million. The company makes software designed to streamline the maintenance and repair process for restaurants, allowing them to manage repairs in one place and draw on a curated marketplace of service providers. The idea is to both save operators time and drive down costs. The technology drew in some big names, including prominent investor Tiger Global and Mike Ghaffary, the former CEO of Yelp. Nilam Ganenthiran, the former president of Instacart, is also joining ResQ’s board. More than 4,000 restaurant groups use ResQ, including Yum Brands, Wendy’s and Burger King.

Uber Eats now owns Drizly. The food delivery giant bought the alcohol delivery company for $1.1 billion, sealing the deal last week. The two will now work on integrating their services. Drizly’s marketplace will be featured in the Eats app and will also continue as a stand-alone app and website. Boston-based Drizly delivers beer, wine and spirits from retailers in more than 1,600 U.S. cities across 33 states. It will be a major new revenue stream for Eats.

C3 got a $10 million investment from Lurra Capital. The digital restaurant company will use the funds to continue growing its network of ghost kitchens, virtual brands and brick-and-mortar properties, particularly overseas. Switzerland-based Lurra is an “invitation-only” investment firm that will also help C3 get access to other global investors. C3 invited Lurra CEO Tyron Birkmeir and deal partner Giovanni Agostinelli to join its advisory board. The investment follows C3’s $80 million Series B round in July.

Spyce is closing one of its robot-powered restaurants. The company said in a Facebook post that it’s focusing on developing technology for its new parent, the salad chain Sweetgreen, and as a result will permanently shut down its restaurant in Boston’s Downtown Crossing neighborhood on Friday. Spyce, which uses an automated system called the Infinite Kitchen to cook and assemble its bowls, opened the restaurant in 2018. It later closed to revamp its tech and reopened about a year ago. It has a second location in Harvard Square.

Epic Kitchens opened its second location, in Chicago. The ghost kitchen-adjacent operation houses four fast-casual brands for delivery and takeout but also offers dine-in. Customers can order from multiple brands at once using Epic Kitchens’ new app. The success of a downtown location spurred the company to open another Chicago kitchen uptown, in the Lakeview neighborhood. The restaurant options are BurgerFi, Pokeworks, 800 Degrees Pizza and Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken.

ChowNow hired a leader from the Texas Restaurant Association. Anna Tauzin will be senior director of industry relations and community affairs for the online ordering and marketing company as it looks to grow. Tauzin was formerly chief revenue and innovation officer for the TRA, and before that held a similar role with the National Restaurant Association. At ChowNow, she will oversee public relations, advisory councils, partnerships, and relationships with elected officials. 

Anna Tauzin

Anna Tauzin will oversee public relations and community affairs for ChowNow. / Photograph courtesy of ChowNow

Qu built a stronger cloud. The POS provider last week launched its Commerce Cloud, a layered system designed to protect guests’ data and improve connectivity. As part of the system, every Qu device in the restaurant connects to the cloud independently, eliminating single points of failure. They also connect to an “in-store” cloud that increases speed and reinforces the network.

SevenRooms is integrating with Olo. Guest information from orders placed with Olo’s online ordering software will now flow directly into SevenRooms’ customer relationship management program, giving restaurants more control over how they engage with guests.

Back-office software provider Restaurant365 named two new executives. Will Emmons will be the company’s chief sales officer and Katie Fairchild will be its senior vice president of marketing. Both have backgrounds in the software-as-a-service industry and will help the company market and sell its technology as it looks to step up growth.

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