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Greetings from Eastern Kentucky, where I’m taking a quick breather from the restaurant world and am off to tour AppHarvest’s high-tech greenhouse.
But first, a few quick thoughts on the recent Yum! Brands acquisition of Dragontail Systems, which was announced at the end of last week. In case it wasn’t clear already, Yum — parent company of Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, and The Habit Burger Grill — has big ambitions when it comes to its technology plans. The Dragontail deal suggests that a big chunk of that ambition is to enable better delivery at its restaurants.
Australia-based Dragontail Systems is known around the restaurant biz for its AI-based workflow management system for kitchens. The system can process a restaurant’s incoming orders, manage each food item’s cook time so that it’s ready when the delivery driver arrives (not before or after), assist with managing and scheduling drivers, and provide real-time updates. In the past, restaurants have also used Dragontail’s AI-based camera to assess food quality and ensure safety and cleanliness standards in the kitchen.
Dragontail is Yum’s third major technology acquisition so far in 2021. Earlier in the year, Yum acquired AI firm Kvantum to assist with its marketing campaign analytics, and Tictuk, which makes omnichannel ordering software that lets consumers place orders via social media, SMS, email, and other formats.
The Dragontail Acquisition, is hyper-focused on improving delivery operations, and pizza delivery in particular. Yum said it already has Dragontail installed in roughly 1,500 Pizza Hut stores across 10 countries. If a wider implementation of the tech is successful, Yum will eventually install the tech further around its Pizza Hut locations, and eventually across all its brands.
Of course, Dragontail originally debuted its system at a Domino’s location in Australia, so Yum’s bid to buy the company is at least in part a way of competing. I doubt fighting Domino’s is the only motivator, though, as the deal seems aimed at a larger move to make food preparation more efficient at Yum restaurants.
Restaurant kitchens have always operated in a kind of orchestrated chaos, but with many businesses still struggling in the wake of last year’s events, efficiency is everyone’s favorite word right now. On paper, Dragontail’s capabilities sound easy: managing drivers’ arrivals and departures, determining more precise fire times for each food item, assessing the quality of the food more precisely. But as anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant kitchen knows, getting one detail wrong can set off an entire chain of mishaps that lead to lower-quality food, unhappy customers and, in the end, lost money. With the Dragontail acquisition, Yum is placing its bets on tech to help the company avoid that scenario.
Plant Power Fast Food Chain Raises $7.5M Series A – The San Diego, California-based all-vegan chain trying to redefine the concept of “fast” food said it will use its new funding to continue its expansion plans and focus on new corporate unit development.
7Shifts Raises $21.5M for Its Workforce Management Platform for Restaurants – The company will use its $21.5 million Series B round to add new features that simplify the process of managing, scheduling, and communicating with restaurant workers.
Square’s Back-of-House Display System Now Available for Delivery-Only Restaurants – Payments company Square recently made its restaurant software stack a little more versatile when it launched its Square KDS back-of-house display system as a standalone item available via subscription.