VC firm and seed accelerator 500 Startups just announced the list of companies that made the cut for its 23rd accelerator class. Among them is Finedine Menu, a company which is reinventing the concept of the restaurant menu.
Finedine Menu bills itself as “a digital menu management platform.” Restauranteurs can use it to create digital menus and display them on iOS and Android tablets via the Finedine Menu app. Customers interact with the menu, clicking on items to browse available dishes and order their favorites. The app tracks this sort of behavior, so businesses can view the data and make changes to the menu based on what customers prefer.
The system has two parts: a web-based control panel and a tablet-compatible app. (The app doesn’t work with phones right now.) Once a restaurant signs up for the service, they are directed to the control panel and prompted to design their menu.
Restaurants can choose from three different Finedine Menu plans, which are based on the number of tablets the business plans to use: small is for five tablets; medium for 25; and large for 50.
Since everything is digital, there’s a huge range of info the restauranteurs can put on their menus. They can upload videos and images, change the currency, display the menu in different languages, and add deals and pairing recommendations. The system even has built-in allergen warnings they can select and display. And the beauty of digital menus is that they can be updated in real time, so anything that’s changed on the control panel will immediately change on the app, too. The platform is compatible with most POS systems.
Behind the scenes, the Finedine Menu system gathers and displays data the restaurant can use to improve both the menu itself and the food offered. That includes things like most viewed items, average ticket size, daily sales, and which items sell the most. All of this info can be viewed by restauranteurs on a dashboard in their control panel.
Finedine Menu is hardly alone here. Uncorkd‘s platform is a good example; it’s similar to Finedine Menu, only specifically for wine, beer, and other drink menus. Using the system’s analytics, a business could see things like which red wines are most popular, and how that popularity changes from night to night — and change their menus accordingly. Uncorkd’s system has over 200,000 descriptions for various beverages, which streamlines the order process, and, like Finedine Menu, Uncorkd menus can be updated in real time.
Apito is an iOS-compatible app where guests can view, order, and pay for a meal from an iPad, and even do things like request a server’s attention. The company claims it can help restaurants increase the average ticket size by 15 to 20 percent. A company called eTouch Menu also promises increased profits through upsell opportunities, and is used by the likes of Dunkin’ Donuts, Hard Rock Cafe, and various casinos and airports.
What all these companies have in common is that they’re not so much menus as they are full-on foodtech platforms. So there’s a good reason Finedine Menu also bills itself as “a technology company that serves the hospitality industry.” Digital menus are increasingly becoming sophisticated technology platforms, and it will be interesting to see how the company can further evolve this concept during its time in the 500 Startups program.