A lot of us dread the idea of a world where speciality coffeeshops are gone “going for coffee” means getting a Starbucks latte delivered via DoorDash.
Dane Atkinson, CEO of tech startup Odeko, clearly doesn’t want that day to happen either, which is why his company has developed a mobile ordering and supply chain management system that is, for now, specifically geared towards keeping specialty coffeeshops in business.
Speaking on the phone this week about his company’s overall mission, he said “the really important message [is that] if we don’t sustain this industry, it really will become Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. They will consolidate in smaller locations and the community and neighborhoods will suffer.”
NYC-based Odeko, which closed a $12 million Series A round in August, recently merged with fellow coffee tech company Cloosiv, has since the start of the pandemic looked for ways to help businesses make both the front and back ends of the coffee shop more efficient, less wasteful, and more financially sustainable over the long haul.
The consumer-facing side of Odeko’s business functions similar to those of mainstream coffee retailers. Customers order and pay for pickup through the company’s mobile app or website. At the moment, Odeko has about 10,000 coffeeshops on the platform across multiple U.S. states. Atkinson says the benefit for customers is its current focus on speciality coffeeshops, which simply means less sifting through irrelevant options to find a high-quality espresso. (Odeko vets its potential merchant partners in order to ensure they actually are specialty coffeeshops.)
The coffeeshops themselves get perhaps the most benefit from the platform. Listing a business on the platform means the coffeeshop itself doesn’t have to come up with the resources to create a mobile order app from the ground up. Odeko charges a 5 percent commission fee per order, which small compared to others, including third-party aggregators a la Grubhub.
Sales data is then used, via AI, to predict volume so that coffeeshops know how much to order in terms of paper supplies, baking ingredients, beverages, and other items needed to run a coffeeshop. Businesses can browse the company’s Cafe Supply Catalog to find all of these items, which Odeko then delivers as a single shipment.
Atkinson said this supply side of the business is “exploding” now that restaurant industry margins are so tight that any amount of money lost through inventory waste or inefficient supply chain processes can spell the end for a business. “Previously, as a shop, you could get away with some waste in your inventory,” he noted. Now, throwing out unused inventory is akin to “your own salary you’re throwing out.” He says the system is “90 percent accurate” in terms of predicting inventory needs for a week.
The need to digitize the back of house and make it more efficient is a theme that comes up a lot nowadays, with companies like Galley and Souszen applying software, automation, and IoT to change how the back of house is run. Odeko stands somewhat apart from these companies because of its accompanying consumer-facing tech, and also its focus on independent and specialty retailers. It’s main competitor in the coffee-specific mobile order space is Ritual, though Ritual does not have a supply chain side of its business.
Odeko doesn’t necessarily want to solely commit itself to coffee for the long haul. Atkinson says the system could actually work for other types of food businesses, including juice bars or full-service restaurants, and that at some point down the line the company will expand in terms of the types of food businesses on its platform. For now, keeping the independent coffeeshop, the connective tissue of many neighborhoods, alive is its main mission.