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Recently, a restaurant technology company called Slice announced a $40 million fundraise, suggesting there’s a huge opportunity when it comes to making software specifically geared towards the independent pizzeria.
Slice’s platform, developed by founders with a long history in the pizza space, includes online ordering capabilities, a pizza rewards program, a POS system, the option to build a branded website, and the option to offer delivery, among other things. From the consumer-facing view, Slice is a marketplace of local pizzerias (e.g., not Papa John’s) from which to order and build up reward points that eventually result in free food. Slice is currently up and running in businesses across all 50 U.S. states and serves over 15,000 shops. The potential market it could serve — that is, independent pizzerias — numbers in the tens of thousands at this point in the U.S.
Why, you ask, would an independent pizzeria need a pizza-specific platform to do business?
It’s all in that word “independent.”
As Slice’s Chief Product Officer, Preethy Vaidyanatha, explained to me recently, if you want to run a pizza business (or any restaurant, really), you basically have two options: open a Domino’s (or Pizza Hut, or Papa John’s) franchise or start your own business. The latter choice allows for more culinary creativity and freedom, but comes with the added stressors of running a type of business that’s low-margin even when there’s not a pandemic shutting down restaurants left and right.
On top of that — and this is what Slice’s technology really aims to address — technology’s march on the restaurant business is unavoidable at this point for pretty much everyone. Digital ordering is a must for businesses large and small now. And after a year of shutdowns and ever-changing restrictions on restaurants, costs have to be reeled in, and digitizing the back of house (bookkeeping, inventory management, etc.) is one way to do that.
Add to this some elements very specific to pizzerias. The menu may be simple (pizza), but it has to accommodate requests like half-and-half toppings, extra cheese, and crust types. Some businesses sell both whole pies and individual slices. Digitally speaking, these choices need to be available with just a couple clicks on a phone or computer. Meanwhile, many pizzerias still handle their own delivery, which as to be accounted for when it comes to managing operations.
Slice handles the technical logistics of all of those situations, and there is arguably plenty of room for other restaurant tech companies to also develop tools for these things.
If you’re Domino’s, you can just throw money at the problem and open an innovation center to tackle these issues. I can promise you that your average family-owned pizza shop does not have its own innovation center. Nonetheless, it and any other independent pizzeria needs the ability to also offer the kinds of digital conveniences consumers get from the big companies, and that’s where restaurant tech companies like Slice could prove hugely valuable.
For its part, Slice’s tech offers independent shops the same digitization, process automation, and online ordering/payment tools you would get with Domino’s or a third-party delivery service, but at a far lower cost. The company did not divulge actual numbers, but did mention that restaurants pay a flat fee per transaction to use the platform, rather than the percentage-per-transaction model used by DoorDash et al.
Pizza has always been in its own class when it comes to delivery, from the food itself to the way it handles off-premises formats like delivery. Getting its own tech stack made for pizzerias by pizzerias seems like the natural next step in the segments evolution.
Starbucks has teamed up with Arizona State University to open a research and innovation facility that will test initiatives that support more sustainability in Starbucks stores. The facility is called the ASU-Starbucks Center for the Future of the People and the Planet, and will open at the end of 2021.
Toast has made updates to its Order & Pay tool, including pre-authorization that lets customers start a tab, authorize a credit card, and enable group ordering, all from their own mobile device.
Atlanta-based pay-at-the-table startup sunday recently launched its QR code solution, following a $24 million fundraise. The Atlanta, Georgia-based company wants, like many others, to make it easier for guests to get and pay their bill in the restaurant.