- BentoBox, which creates mobile-friendly websites for restaurants, has raised $16.4 million led by Threshold Ventures, along with Bullpen Capital, Haystack, Female Founders Fund and restaurateur Will Guidara. With this round of funding, the company has now raised a total of $23.6 million, according to TechCrunch.
- In addition to incorporating online ordering, CEO Krystle Mobayeni told TechCrunch the new funding will allow the company to start working with larger chains, and to build more features such as point-of-sale and reservations. Some of its website features include gift card sales, private event bookings and catering orders.
- The company, which charges a subscription fee, currently works with more than 4,000 restaurants across all 50 states and in 16 countries.
In the restaurant space, customers now expect brands to offer technology features that facilitate more convenience, such as online ordering and delivery. At the same time, restaurant brands are often giving up critical data to the technology companies enabling these features.
Customers need technology. Restaurants need data. That's quite a paradox. But restaurants can't just ignore the staggering demand for delivery, among other services, and so they have to find other ways to mine such data about their consumers in order to personalize offers and gain a competitive advantage. As such, many big brands have updated their apps, added robust loyalty programs and have polished up their websites — channels where they can have direct ownership. This is likely where the investment allure of a company like BentoBox comes in.
BentoBox is not alone. Funding has opened up for other tech companies (like Toast, for example) that give restaurants a bit more jurisdiction over their own businesses as customers and third-party aggregates gain more control.
Investors also aren't alone in devoting resources to such tech companies. The National Restaurant Association's 2019 State of the Restaurant Industry report notes that a majority of restaurant operators — 70% in the quick-service segment specifically — plan to devote more resources this year to customer-facing, service-based technology. Based on consumer expectations, these investments are a necessity.
Also as illustrated in the report, seven in 10 consumers say they have gone online to view a restaurant menu, while nearly two-thirds have looked up restaurant locations, directions or hours online. Restaurants that control the content put in front of such a big chunk of customers will gain a competitive advantage. As Mobayeni told TechCrunch, websites are the only place online where restaurants maintain control over their relationship with their customers.
It's a critical space to get right. More than 80% of consumers have searched for a restaurant on a mobile app and 92% through a web browser in the past year. Restaurants are the most searched industry by consumers on mobile devices, according to a study from SinglePlatform and Chadwick Martin Bailey. Even as aggregates grow, restaurant's mobile or desktop websites often offer up the first impression for brands.