Three Black women from Texas were arrested, but a lawyer for one called it “mutual combat” after they were called a racial slur.
Starbucks has closed more than 40 stores, while adding mobile-order pickup counters in others. Other chains like Sonic are taking advantage of vacancies to establish themselves in New York.
With vaccines, walk the walk. It’s delicious.
The city of Piraeus, just outside Athens, is becoming a haven for galleries and design studios attracted by its abundant warehouses and growing creative community.
Soothr, in the East Village, began as a simple noodle shop. Then the offerings grew to reflect several regions.
Grubhub, Uber Eats and Door Dash have characterized a 15 percent cap on fees charged to restaurants as an unconstitutional measure that will hurt consumers.
Chef-prepared, small-batch meal delivery startup CookUnity is undergoing a major expansion after closing a $47 million Series B round.
Insight Partners led the round and was joined by Endeavor Capital and current investors IDCV, Fuel Ventures and Gaingels. The latest funding comes eight months after New York-based CookUnity closed a $15.5 million Series A round led by Fuel Venture Capital. The company has now raised a total of $70 million since its inception in 2018.
Mateo Marietti, founder and CEO of CookUnity, had the idea for the subscription-based company five years ago. Marietti, who is from Argentina, was working in food tech and saw that modern delivery services were only able to offer limited food options and pricing, and was a trade-off between convenience and variety.
He went looking for a similar experience to apps like Spotify, where the music selection was limitless, and created CookUnity to connect creators of food with the people who would be eating it.
CookUnity combines the ready-to-eat meal category with a chef-focused business model that provides restaurant-quality meals at home. The rotating menu features hundreds of dishes, starting at $10.49 per meal, with an option of a subscription plan for four, six, eight, 12 or 16 meals per week. Meals heat up in minutes and also include both fast-cooking instructions, like in a microwave, or how the chef might prepare it at home, like with an additional squeeze of lemon or other toppings.
Chefs are also given tools and resources to create a digital-first business, and Marietti told TechCrunch that top-selling chefs bring in upwards of $1 million a year.
“We are building the infrastructure, working with farmers, providing the ingredients and the tech layer for both the consumer app and the chef app,” he added. “We don’t employ any talent or cook the food, but we give chefs the tools to start recruiting cooks, gather information on new recipes, organize their team and expand into new markets while also seeing their sales for the day or week.”
The company’s platform is already working with notable chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Marc Forgione and Esther Choi, and the Series B funding will enable it to add more chefs, including local rising stars and established restaurateurs, enabling them to sell beyond the typical on-demand food delivery zone, Marietti said.
Starting with the flagship kitchen in Brooklyn, CookUnity initially expanded to San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston and Washington, D.C. Following the Series A, the company opened kitchens in Los Angeles, Austin and Chicago. The new funding will now enable the company to accelerate its nationwide expansion with new kitchens in Atlanta and Miami by the end of the year. When all of the new kitchens are online, Marietti estimates that CookUnity will be able to serve 88% of the U.S. population.
In the last 12 months, CookUnity saw over 550% growth and to date has over 50 chefs on its roster, with plans to increase to 150 across all of its kitchens by mid-2022.
As part of the investment, Rebecca Liu-Doyle, principal at Insight Partners, is joining the CookUnity board of directors. Insight’s model is to track companies for a long time before investing; in CookUnity’s case, Liu-Doyle was watching them for more than two years. She said the timing was right for Insight to invest.
In addition to product-market fit, strong chef retention and liking the company’s focus on the food market, which is a “massive total addressable market,” she said, CookUnity was on its way to building a big business with subscription-based revenue as it took on the complexities of the back-end business for chefs.
The value proposition is unique for both of the stakeholders — on the chef side there is a creator economy tailwind, which is taking the friction out of scaling a business while also enabling chefs to build a business with a larger footprint than they just selling food around their restaurants. On the consumer side, Liu-Doyle said CookUnity is providing affordable and convenient food without having to compromise on taste and quality.
“Very few companies can offer that: it is democratization on both fronts,” she added. “In order to execute on the vision, you need a specific team, which Mateo has, and show incremental improvement to the experience. It doesn’t just happen overnight. You have to be patient and deliberate in the way you improve the experience.”
A broad variety of options are now available in grocery aisles and on restaurant menus, and more companies are looking to get in on the action.
Restaurants whose plans were put on hold by the pandemic finally emerge, while global powerhouses gain footholds in Manhattan.
From a single food truck to its coming expansion to Los Angeles, Veracruz All Natural has won a huge following. Yet its owners are still striving to attract more Hispanic diners.
A meal at Nakaji might start with icefish and end with watermelon. Then, if you can afford it, try a $300 shot of whiskey.
In the nation’s capital, the walkable neighborhoods of Logan Circle, West End/Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle are showing off new restaurants with tons of outdoor dining, shops and galleries.
Restaurants steeled themselves for a post-pandemic summer of debauchery. In June and July, they got it, but it ended quickly.
Seasonal Italian cooking should be a natural move for the chef. But Vallata doesn’t quite get off the ground.
The restaurant has beguiled British palates for almost three decades. But a recent chicken shortage saw almost 50 stores temporarily close this last week.
For over 150 years, Coney Island has been a beloved summer refuge for New Yorkers looking to escape the heat — and eat the season’s best snacks.
The lawsuit argues that city officials are unfairly singling out restaurants, gyms and other businesses with overly rigid restrictions.
Contento, in East Harlem, sets an example for an industry that is rarely welcoming to diners with disabilities.
Lusco’s, a century-old fixture in the Delta, became known for its food, and for Booker Wright, a Black waiter who dared to tell the truth about the Jim Crow-era South.
Food delivery apps offer convenience for customers, but a host of headaches for restaurants, like commissions as high as 40% and very few tools to build customer loyalty. Based in Singapore, Tablevibe wants to help restaurants reduce their reliance on third-party delivery apps and help them get more direct orders and returning customers. The startup is part of Y Combinator’s current batch, which will hold its Demo Day at the end of this month.
Tablevibe’s founding team includes two former Googlers: Jeroen Rutten, formerly head of Google Search’s product strategy in APAC and Sneep, who was responsible for its app development go-to-market strategy and led large sales teams. They are joined by Guido Caldara, a lead teacher at coding bootcamp Le Wagon and Tablevibe’s chief technology officer.
The idea for Tablevibe came after Rutten, its chief executive officer, visited a restaurant in Singapore that used paper feedback forms.
“We thought, if they use a paper feedback form, it actually creates a lot of hassle, like entering all the data into an Excel spreadsheet,” he told TechCrunch. “How’s the restaurant owner going to get actionable feedback based on data in an Excel spreadsheet?”
The team began working on the first version of Tablevibe, with simple Google Forms for dine-in customers and Google Data Studio dashboards, and tested it with three restaurants a few months before COVID-19 emerged. They found that using Tablevibe instead of paper forms increased response rates by up to 26x and also had the benefit of creating more repeat customers, since they are given an incentive for filling out surveys.
Then the pandemic hit and restaurants had to suddenly pivot to deliveries. The team kept the same idea behind their feedback forms, but started using QR codes affixed to takeout packaging. The QR codes (usually in the form of stickers so food and beverage businesses don’t need to order new packaging) also offer an incentive if customers scan it and fill out a survey—but the discount or free item can’t be redeemed through third-party delivery apps, only through direct orders with the restaurant.
Restaurants can customize surveys, but about 80% use Tablevibe’s templates, which are quick to fill out, since most questions just ask for a rating from one to five stars (there’s also an optional form for customers to write their opinions). Customers fill out their name, email addresses, and then rank the food and atmosphere (for dine-in). For delivery, customers are also asked what app they used.
Tablevibe is integrated with Google Reviews, so if someone gives the restaurant a high rating, they are asked if they want to make it public. They also have the option to follow its Facebook or Instagram profile.
For dine-in customers, Tablevibe primarily works with F&B businesses that have multiple venues, including Merci Marcel and Lo and Behold Group. For its delivery survey, most users are smaller restaurants that have one location. It also serves cloud kitchens, like CloudEats in the Philippines.
“As a restaurant, you want to own and grow your customer relationships,” said Sneep, Tablevibe’s chief operating officer. “The first part is actually knowing who your customers are, what they experienced and how you can contact them, which is how we can help. The second piece is growing a customer relationship, which we do by giving a reward, but only if a customer reorders directly with a restaurant.”
Customers have generated over 25,000 reviews through Tablevibe so far, which gives the company data to help determine what kind of incentives will convince someone to scan a restaurant’s QR code and take a survey.
Tablevibe’s founders say it can deliver more than 100x return on investment to its clients. For example, Merci Marcel did an evaluation and determined that it got a 103x ROI, based on the number of customers who claimed incentives, average order value, how many people left a five-star Google Review and how much more business those reviews drove to their venues.
The startup plans to expand into other English-speaking markets, focusing first on Northern Europe and then North America later this year. Aside from Singapore, it’s already used by customers in the Philippines, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Portugal.
Rutten said that Tablevibe plans to build its development team, with the goal of becoming a “Salesforce for restaurants” that can help them build engagement through delivery or dine-ins, capture data and turn them into useful insights.
“Our roadmap has two levers—one is to get more data and the other is to provide more intelligence,” he said. “We’re working on API integrations so Tablevibe can integrate with point-of-sale systems. The second thing is to pull in more publicly available data from sources like Google Reviews. We will also build out more marketing features to leverage customer databases so businesses can send out emails about new restaurant launches, etc.” Eventually, Tablevibe also plans to use AI to help restaurants determine exactly what they need to do to improve customer experience, like change a menu item.
Going out to eat should be more expensive, and probably less frequent.
The rise of the Delta variant of the coronavirus has raised new questions about how the vaccinated can stay safe and avoid breakthrough infections. We asked the experts for advice.
Pekin Noodle Parlor, one of the nation’s oldest Chinese restaurants, says goodbye to its longtime owner but holds tight to its colorful past and city.
The 28,000-square-foot, four-story Great Jones Distilling Company will open in August with a cocktail bar, a tasting room and more.
Changes for Blue Hill in Greenwich Village and By Chloe, a Greek restaurant goes global, and more dining news.
The artsy and quieter hamlet of the Hamptons has seen an influx of Manhattanites, buzzy restaurants and even celebrities.
An investigation by the New York State attorney general describes a culture of widespread sexual harassment and retaliation at the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group.
We now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to remake our streets.
With daily reports of breakthrough infections and the rise of the Delta variant, vaccinated people may need to take a few more precautions. Here’s what you need to know.
Chronically underpaid and undervalued, restaurant workers are now in high demand, and the power balance may be shifting for good.
Easy Eat AI, a Singapore-based startup that wants to “transform restaurants into technology companies,” announced today it has raised $5 million in funding. Easy Eat AI offers an operating system for restaurants that lets them digitize all parts of their business, from inventory and customer orders to delivery, and gain AI-based data analytics to improve revenue.
Many food and beverage businesses started digitizing orders and payments so they could offer deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though Easy Eat AI lets restaurants integrate with third-party food ordering apps, it also has its own delivery infrastructure, including on-demand riders, that costs just 4% per order, compared to the 20%-30% that many of the largest food delivery platforms charge.
Founded in 2019 by Mohd Wassem, Rhythm Gupta and Abdul Khalid, Easy Eat AI currently has operations in Malaysia, and plans to expand into other Southeast Asian markets. The funding included participation from Aroa Ventures, the family office of OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal; Reddy Futures Family Office; Prophetic Ventures; OYO global chief strategy officer Maninder Gulati; Alarko Ventures managing partner Cem Garih; and Esas Ventures founder and managing partner Fethi Sabancı Kamışlı.
Wassem told TechCrunch that Easy Eat AI was created because even though Southeast Asia “is a food paradise, everyone eats out, eating out is a culture here,” the restaurant industry is still one of the least advanced digitally. Before the pandemic, he said that about 80% of restaurant business came from in-person dining, but taking orders manually resulted in very little data kept about who customers are, what they like to order or how often they return.
Easy Eat AI’s platform helps restaurants create that digital connection with their customers. Some of its clients include chains like Richiamo Coffee, Mr. Fish Fishhead Noodles, WTF Group and Hailam Toast. During COVID-19 lockdowns, Easy Eat AI has helped restaurants fulfill deliveries and its other features, like targeted marketing campaigns and loyalty reward programs, are relevant to in-person dining, too.
Easy Eat AI’s consumer interface is based on QR code ordering—customers scan the code with their smartphone and are taken directly to the restaurant’s menu online. They pick what they want, then create an account or sign-in by entering their mobile number. Payments and reward programs can also be accessed through the platform.
The company says that after analyzing 100,000 orders at more than 50 restaurants over six months, it found that people spend about 30% more when they order digitally compared to through a waiter—similar to when people go shopping for a specific item online and end up adding more items to their cart while browsing.
After a restaurant uses Easy Eat AI for about 30 to 45 days, it is able to build a customer database for targeted online marketing strategies, sending offers to the people who are most likely to use them.
For example, a month after launching in its third outlet of Mr. Fish, the platform had collected data from more than 1,400 customers. The restaurant was able to see that about 20% visited the restaurant more than once, and the average duration between their visits was 12 days. Based on that information, it created marketing campaigns to draw back people who hadn’t returned in 20 days. During that time, Mr. Fish also started fulfilling delivery orders through Easy Eat AI, and by the end of the month, 13.4% of its orders were coming through the platform, reducing its reliance on third-party delivery apps.
In a statement about the funding, Keshav Reddy, managing partner of Reddy Futures Family Office, said, “The team is customer obsessed and understands the pain problems of the industry. Their innovative software platform will be disruptive to the entire F&B ecosystem and how customers engage through the entire F&B lifecycle in the online-to-offline world.”
The owners of Apt Cape Cod, a farm-to-table restaurant in Brewster, Mass., drew a line in the sand against customers’ rude behavior since being allowed to fully reopen.
Maki rolls, robata and more in NoHo, a burger focus for the Breslin, and more restaurant news.
On Tuesday, The Times’s critic called it “the restaurant of the summer.” On Wednesday morning, the chefs called it off.
A community-supported agriculture program puts down roots, Levantine cuisine in Chelsea, and more restaurant news.
The need for social distancing led restaurants and grocery stores to seek technological help. That may improve productivity, but could also cost jobs.
As in-person dining returns, home delivery is holding up. For restaurants, services like DoorDash and Uber Eats could become a permanent part of their business.
More than 100,000 business owners got help from the relief effort, but 265,000 were turned away — some after awards were rescinded.
The rules of restaurant spaces are up for grabs as the city’s Department of Transportation looks to the future of street and sidewalk seating.
The celebrity chef dishes on restaurant reopenings, delivery apps and his $80 million Food Network deal.
Unable to staff shifts, some restaurants and shops, already reeling from lockdown closures, are suspending service during the lucrative summer season.
Owners, who relied on the drinks to stay afloat during the pandemic, are unloading cocktails and wondering what to do with all the packaging equipment that is now useless as an alcohol sales loophole is closed.
A pillar of California’s pioneering food scene, he worked at Spago and was a founder of the renowned Campanile and La Brea Bakery.
Looking for new ways to get their food to customers, chefs are reinventing their dishes as retail offerings — and it can be tricky.
Tired of law enforcement corruption, the owners of a fast-food chain in Pakistan sought justice over social media.
Multiple women have accused Edouardo Jordan, known for running the restaurants Salare and JuneBaby, of unwanted touching or kissing. Almost all of the restaurants’ employees have resigned.
Approvals for thousands of Restaurant Revitalization Fund applicants were rescinded after court orders struck down a policy that favored historically underserved groups.
All buffed and polished from the gaslight-era chandeliers to the menu, Gage & Tollner is once again a compelling destination.
A shortage of workers is forcing restaurants to turn away eager customers and confront a bigger problem: how to make hospitality an industry where people want to work.
The pandemic has exacerbated a price spike in the iconic New England summer sandwich.