This edition of MRM’s Daily Bite includes news from SevenRooms, #getfried Fry Cafe, Ritual, Yellowbelly and Chicago Meat Authority.
Send news items to Barbara Castiglia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SevenRooms Secures Funding
SevenRooms announced its first institutional funding round, a $8-million fundraise led by Comcast Ventures, the venture capital affiliate of Comcast Corporation. The round brings SevenRooms’ total funding to $16.4 million, following previous investments from investors including restaurateur Chef Thomas Keller, the Handwerker family, founders of Nathan’s Famous, Box Group, David Nichols, former President of K-Swiss, Inc., and the Merinoff family, owners and operators of Breakthru Beverage Group, LLC. The recent financing will enable SevenRooms to accelerate growth, build out teams across sales, customer success, engineering, product and marketing, increase the value of the platform for operators with new integrations and features, and shift to full profitability.
Founded in 2011, the New York-based company is used in more than 100 cities worldwide with clients ranging from independent restaurants to multi-concept hospitality groups including Standard Hotels, Altamarea Group, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Corbin & King, Live Nation, Cosme and TAO Group. These clients, among other notable operators across the globe, book more than 2 million guests each month through SevenRooms, with the number of guests seated by clients growing 327 percent (YOY) from October 2016 to October 2017.
“At SevenRooms, we are empowering operators to create and cultivate the meaningful, direct relationships with guests that make exceptional experiences possible,” said Joel Montaniel, CEO & Co-Founder of SevenRooms. “Whether they run a local, independent restaurant, or an international, multi-concept hospitality group, our reservation, seating and guest management platform gives operators the tools they need to increase revenue and deliver personalized service and marketing to their guests – without increasing their costs. We are thrilled to partner with Comcast Ventures in our first institutional fundraise, as it marks a promise to continue leading the charge in moving hospitality and guest experience forward.”
This year, the company more than doubled the number of locations on its platform. Major client wins included signing 80 Jumeirah Group restaurants across Abu Dhabi and Dubai, multi-property deals with Zuma, The One Group (STK) and Topgolf, as well as the addition of food and beverage outlets at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills and PUBLIC Hotels.
“Under the leadership of an extraordinary management team, SevenRooms delivers the most advanced, yet intuitive guest management system for the restaurant and hospitality industry,” said Dinesh Moorjani, Managing Director at Comcast Ventures, who will join SevenRooms’ board of directors. “By actually listening to its customers and elevating the guest experience, SevenRooms has empowered leading restaurants and hospitality operators as opposed to disintermediating them from their own guests. We’re proud to be a part of the SevenRooms story, and look forward to their continued growth and success.”
#getfried Expands Development Pipeline
#getfried Fry Cafe, a quick-serve restaurant franchise that offers a variety of topped French fries and finger foods, top photo, is experiencing explosive growth throughout the country, with locations currently in development throughout Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Santa Clara and Egypt.
Growth in the coming months will be driven by multiple new franchise agreements, which include:
- Houston, TX – #getfried will debut a kiosk at the end of December at the Deerbrook Mall in the northern suburb of Humble. The franchise will be run by entrepreneur Shahid Mahmood, a Pakistan native with nearly 30 years of entrepreneurial experience.
- Santa Clara, CA – In early January, #getfried will debut a brick-and-mortar restaurant at 4300 Great America Parkway in Santa Clara with franchisees Robert and Lynette Crum. Robert spent several years as the head chef at Il Fornaio restaurant in San Jose, and has a background in commercial restaurant equipment. The location will also offer self-service beer and wine.
- Austin, TX – University of Texas at Austin’s campus will see #getfried open in the Dobie Mall food hall in early January. The location will be run by franchisee Drew Travis. In addition, a second unit is scheduled to open in mid-2018 through a separate franchise agreement with Wayne Anderson.
- San Antonio, TX – In early January, #getfried will open a kiosk at the North Star Mall in San Antonio by a local couple with vast business and restaurant experience. Diana Popescu and Alex Miralda are currently running the #getfried food trailer throughout San Antonio. Previously, Miralda was a manager at Fuddruckers for several years.
- Dallas, TX – Deep Ellum will soon be home to a #getfried location, which is expected to open early 2018 at 2656 Main Street in Dallas. The store will be run by entrepreneur Muhammad Abdullah and will be a brick-and-mortar location in “The Corner Building.”
- Cairo, Egypt– After successfully testing the #getfried model in Egypt this summer with two mobile units, Premiere Food Services, an international foodservice company that operates in Egypt, has also signed a 10-unit agreement to bring more #getfried locations to the country over the next three years. A brick-and-mortar store is scheduled to open this winter in Cairo.
“We are excited to introduce the #getfried experience into new markets across the country and internationally,” said Chris Covelli, founder of #getfried. “We are carving out a unique niche in the quick serve segment. Fast-casual, customizable restaurant concepts are becoming more popular among consumers, especially millennials, and we know that #getfried intersects the ubiquity of the hashtag with America’s love affair with French fries.”
Since becoming franchise compliant in early 2016, #getfried has sold 23 units, nine of which will be open by the end of 2017. The quick-serve chain is focused on domestic expansion, specifically targeting college towns and campuses and major cities such as Las Vegas, Atlanta, Miami and New York City.
Ritual Launches Social Ordering App in U.S.
Ritual, a social ordering app that connects users to their favorite local eateries, launched nationally in the U.S. Founded in Toronto in 2014, Ritual is now available in urban areas in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Customers can consolidate ordering ahead from all their favorite eateries in just one app while tapping into their network to make the experience more social and convenient. They will be able to order ahead and pay to avoid line and order wait times, and in a way that rewards loyalists with free food.
With more than 1,600 restaurants in the U.S and Toronto, Ritual helps merchants of any size and scale better compete for local business by connecting customers to nearby eateries in a way that saves them time without incurring an incremental expense for convenience. Much of that user convenience also comes from the comprehensive selection of restaurants available on Ritual within each neighborhood.
Ritual’s platform is uniquely social and enables consumers to easily connect with their network of colleagues, making ordering more frequent and convenient. Not only can co-workers collaborate on where to order from for lunch, but busy colleagues can also hop on their order and have their co-workers bring their lunch back to their desk for them. By leveraging the power of the peer-to-peer network, Ritual elevates the social network effect at the local level, generating incremental value to local merchants.
“Ritual has been the saving grace of the busy lunch hour at Spotify,” said Liza Haddad, Global Creative Development Manager, Spotify. “It’s given our team members the chance to jump on important global calls or reclaim an hour of the day by relying on teammates to pick up lunch on their way. The team members have also been able to discover some personal local favourites as they jump on others’ orders but frankly, the best thing our hard working team finds about Ritual is that it gathers us all for a moment in the name of lunch.”
Founded by former Google Shopping lead Ray Reddy along with Robert Kim and Larry Stinson, Ritual is targeting quick service, low cost food items. Local commerce still represents the vast majority of QSR, fast-casual dining sales — with 70 percent of Americans frequenting a fast food restaurant at least three times a week on average (Consensus.gov, 2015)
“Ritual has already become a daily habit for thousands of people,” said Ray Reddy, CEO and co-founder of Ritual. “We’ve delivered millions of meals, and as Ritual expands, we will continue to help great local businesses thrive while also helping customers save time and connect with their community.”
Ritual’s technology built on the Google Cloud Platform is one of the first to use Google BigQuery to serve up personalized restaurant recommendations down to the menu item-level. By combining data from 300 million in-app events, transaction logs, restaurant capacity and historic order behavior patterns, Ritual helps merchants know how to serve their customers better with a loyalty program that further rewards frequent users.
“As technology becomes increasingly important to reach, engage and manage our customer interaction and expectations in a timely and intuitive way, platforms like Ritual are essential to enable a seamless experience that is efficient for all participants,” said Florian Pfahler, Managing Partner at Hannah’s Bretzel in Chicago.
Ritual has raised $57.5 Million to-date in Series A from Greylock Partners and Series B from Insight Ventures to support its U.S. market expansion. Ritual’s additional investors include Golden Venture Partners, Mantella Venture Partners, Mistral Venture Partners and Wildcat Ventures. Ritual has plans to launch in other cities in the coming months. Ritual is first tackling the food space, and anticipates widening the applications for its technology to other areas of local commerce.
“Ritual has expanded the addressable market for local commerce, creating a social marketplace that is mutually beneficial for both the consumer and the merchant,” said Simon Rothman, Partner at Greylock Partners and board member at Ritual. “We’ve seen how the network effect kicks in once it reaches a critical inflection point. Ritual is a boon to local merchants, and it’s no surprise that many of the mass-market chains are looking to migrate away from their own standalone mobile apps.”
Yellowbelly Concept Coming to St. Louis
Travis Howard and Tim Wiggins, the team behind St. Louis’ Retreat Gastropub are expanding to a second restaurant and bar, Yellowbelly, at 4659 Lindell Blvd, part of The Opus Group’s Citizen Park building at corner of Euclid and Lindell. Set to open in mid-2018, Yellowbelly will be a sea and spirits concept with seafood-focused fare and a thoughtful beverage program with a concentrated focus on rum, wines by the glass, craft beer, classic cocktails and more.
Yellowbelly also establishes Howard and Wiggins as multi-concept restaurant owners and signifies the start of their restaurant group, On Point Hospitality.
In a city with an established cocktail scene, Yellowbelly seeks to define the first modern cocktail bar in St. Louis. Yellowbelly evokes a sense of play with a bright, clean design and serious, but fun cocktails and food. As with Retreat, Yellowbelly will be about a mindset–a lively hideout to gather with friends for a good time. Owner Travis Howard explains, “Our location is right in the heart of the exciting development in the Central West End from Whole Foods to Shake Shack. With residents located right above us, Yellowbelly will be a place for the neighborhood–an everyday hangout where anyone can come relax and enjoy a new experience.”
While the forests and landscapes of the Pacific Northwest inspired Retreat’s décor, Architect Nick Adams of Mademan Designs will bring Yellowbelly’s California coastal feel to life in the 3,000-square foot space. The restaurant and bar’s 16-foot ceilings and complete glass exterior create an airy, bright environment while natural design elements of light, bamboo-inspired wood with subtle tropical tones of deep teal and white add warmth to the space. Custom artwork on two main walls as well as a geometric installation over the 15-seat quartz bar with glass tile backsplash create additional modern touches. The restaurant overall will seat 90 to 95 people with an additional 40 seats outside.
The animated name is a derivative of the literal “yellow-bellied” tropical birds and fish, but it’s also a buck to the term yellow-belly, or coward. With calls to “be brave” throughout the restaurant, Yellowbelly is a playful dare to try something new. While the beverage program will feature something for everyone, the menu will also reflect 26-year-old Partner and Bar Manager Tim Wiggins’ love letter to rum–something that hasn’t been done before in St. Louis.
He explains, “We want to evoke a sense of adventure at Yellowbelly and offer a new, energetic dining and drinking experience. Rum is a passion of mine, and no one in St. Louis is focusing so intently on the spirit. It allows me to not only challenge myself, but also have an open, fun conversation with our guests.” Many of the signature Yellowbelly rum cocktails will be served in fun, cheeky custom glassware. Guests can expect cocktails based off of tropical fish names and traits, such as: Rummy Nose Torpedo, Green Terror, Cherry Barb Punch and more. While the drinks will be bold and playful, Wiggins wants to make one thing clear, “it won’t be a tiki bar.
The food menu also embraces West Coast cuisine with bright, light flavors, seasonal fruits and vegetables and the best, freshest seafood available. Expect raw seafood dishes such as ceviche and crudo to seafood entrées like whole fish. In addition, the menu will include twists on approachable American fare with shareable small plates, larger approachable entrées, such as a burger, and more.
Rabe Joins Chicago Meat Authority
Lisa Rabe joins Chicago Meat Authority as director of technical assurance at the privately held boning and portion control operations located in the historic Chicago stockyards. Rabe has 20 years of quality control experience in the food services industry. She most recently was quality and regulatory director for Bel Brands USA and has worked for Grecian Delight and Cargill.
“Lisa is a great addition to our team because she has a deep respect and understanding for quality control, food safety, regulatory affairs and research and development,” said Jordan Dorfman, president of Chicago Meat Authority.
Rabe holds a Master of Science degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in molecular biology from the University of Wyoming. Her goals include creating and refining a culture focused on the quality control process, keeping the company on top of current regulations and anticipating changes in the food industry.
“I have a passion for food safety in the meat industry,” she said. “I have a great understanding of pathogens and how they could potentially affect the food supply. I am excited about getting back to an industry I love.”
Chicago Meat Authority began in 1990, encompasses 80,000 square feet and produces sales of $125 million per year. The company sells to the hotel, restaurant and institutional markets in addition to meat purveyors and multi-unit regional and national chains. CMA also specializes in custom cuts for further processors including grinding operations, deli manufacturers and the meat snacks market. The company employs 300 specialty butchers who customize meat for selective chefs.