Image via Presto

Presto, whose tech suite helps restaurants organize and manage their front of house, announced today it has raised $30 million in growth funding. The round was led by Recruit Holdings and Romulus Capital, with participation from I2BF Global Ventures, EG Capital, and Brainchild Holdings.

In an interview with The Spoon, Presto founder and CEO Rajat Suri said the new funds will go towards further developing the company’s products, which it expanded earlier this year to include Presto Wearable and Presto A.I., in addition to the company’s tabletop terminal, PrestoPrime.

Suri, who is also the cofounder of Lyft, launched Presto in 2008 after a year spent working in restaurants and prototyping the PrestoPrime based on his observations. The device, which lives on restaurant tabletops, lets guests order, pay, leave feedback and play games while waiting for their food.

If the restaurant is also using Presto’s wearable technology, the terminal can notify a server directly when a guest has a specific need, whether it’s about a soda refill or an undercooked steak.

Those wearables come in the form of an app that’s compatible with any Android device. As Suri points out, wearables like smartwatches make the most sense, since restaurant managers don’t love servers having their phones out and since those devices would be cumbersome anyway during a fast-paced dinner rush. The plus side of having wearable tech sending instant notifications is that it can help a restaurant catch issues as they arise. If that undercooked steak arrives and the guest files a negative comment, it will be able to address the issue in real time, before the customer leaves. If a guest asks for a side of sour cream, the request reaches the server in the form of a digital notification, which is a lot harder to forget and could even help create more accountability, since everything has a digital footprint.

There’s an obvious downside to these real-time updates, though. Guest ratings via technology can affect a server’s bottom line if the manager starts scheduling that person for the slowest shifts due to low ratings. Maybe in some cases that’s justified, but anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows, unhappy customers aren’t necessarily the fault of the server waiting on them.

Suri, of course, has his own restaurant experience, which he’s clearly putting to good use when it comes to how Presto positions these wearables in its array of products. Rather than notify the server (or the GM) about every single activity and issue, Presto Wearable is about important notifications only. “Wearables are meant to cover the biggest gaps, not every gap,” he notes.

And even if an operator wanted their employees to get every last piece of data in the restaurant, that would be impossible for humans to do in any meaningful way. “There’s so much important information coming from various different sources that staff workers can’t make sense of it,” explains Suri of the restaurant operation nowadays. “[Workers] can’t improve on their predictions in a systematic way.” AI, on the other hand, can, and Presto A.I. does the heavy lifting where most of the data is concerned. If it’s Tuesday afternoon, the system can pull weather data or data about external events and make predictions for the Friday night shift. Maybe that college football game around the corner will increase traffic that night. Perhaps bad weather will lessen the number of guests. Presto’s system processes all this data and makes such predictions to help operators better predict and accordingly.

Restaurants who use Presto can pick and choose which of its technologies to use, though as Suri points out, smart restaurants should at this point be making some kind of investment in technology to improve front-of-house operations. “The industry is ripe for change,” he says. “Labor has never had so many options as they do now and the industry has to change because of that to stay relevant. A lot of our partners realize that, and that’s why they’re adopting a lot more solutions.”

Presto currently partners with, according to the company, “five of the top 10 restaurant chains.” Suri wouldn’t go into specific companies (Applebees and Red Lobster are clients), only adding that the company “doubled last year we expect to double again this year in terms of revenues in terms of team size.”

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