Just Eat has acquired Practi, a software service that makes POS and restaurant-management systems for small and/or independent restaurants. According to a press release, the acquisition cost “an initial £6.7m ($8.7m) with further payments dependent on the achievement of certain commercial milestones.”

Just Eat’s digital marketplace for food delivery and takeaway is headquartered in the UK and operates in multiple countries around the world, including Mexico, Denmark, Brazil, Norway, and Australia. The service launched in 2001, which makes it something of an “old guard” when it comes to food delivery. The company IPO’d in April of 2014.

The Practi acquisition will let Just Eat incorporate a full restaurant-management system on the order tablets the latter provides to restaurants. That includes a POS system, inventory management, and front- and back-of-house management bundled into a single software package, one that applies to both online and offline ordering (that is, delivery orders and guests dining in). To clarify, the Practi technology will be aimed at restaurants which don’t already have a POS system in place. For those that do, Just Eat’s January 2019 acquisition of Flyt is meant to provide integration with existing systems.

The goal here seems pretty obvious for Just Eat: use Flyt and Practi’s technology to lock restaurants into the Just Eat ecosystem. Whereas many software packages merely offer integrations with existing in-house systems, these newly acquired technologies will change the Just Eat offering so that it’s not just another piece of software but the software for restaurants. Just Eat also does the marketing for its restaurant partners, and offers them discounts on things like wholesale items, utilities, and insurance. Throw in a fleet of drivers — which, as of yet, Just Eat does not necessarily provide — and you have yourself a tidy walled garden.

There are ups and downs to such a strategy. One the plus side, end-to-end restaurant systems can save operators a lot of hassle and, probably, considerable sums of money. And with a single system in place, GMs would no longer have to double as de facto IT staff.

One the downside, though, walled gardens typically limit consumer choice. As I wrote last month, when Uber was hinting at its own walled garden: “Translated to the restaurant world, [a walled garden] would mean Uber controlling the choices that pop up when you search ‘Mexican Food’ on their app, thereby limiting the restaurants you see to the ones who work directly with Uber.”

We’ll see how high Just Eat builds its wall as it starts to roll out Practi’s technology across different markets. Expect others to follow suite at some point in the near future.

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