The technology that helped restaurants survive the pandemic.

The past year has crushed independent restaurants across the country and brought a reality to their doors: Many were unprepared for a digital world.

Unlike other small retailers, restaurateurs could keep the tech low, with basic websites and maybe Instagram accounts with tantalizing, well-lit photos of their food. It meant businesses like BentoBox, which aims to help restaurants build more robust websites with e-commerce abilities, were a hard sell, Amy Haimerl reports for The New York Times.

For many, BentoBox’s services were a “nice to have,” not a necessity, the company’s founder, Krystle Mobayeni, said.

But the pandemic sent chefs and owners flocking to the firm as they suddenly needed to add to-go ordering, delivery scheduling, gift card sales and more to their websites. Before the pandemic the company, based in New York City, had about 4,800 clients, including the high-profile Manhattan restaurant Gramercy Tavern; today it has more than 7,000 restaurants on board and recently received a $28.8 million investment led by Goldman Sachs.

The moment opened a well of opportunity for other companies like it. Dozens of firms have either started or scaled up sharply as they found their services in urgent demand. Meanwhile, investors and venture capitalists have been sourcing deals in the “restaurant tech” sector — particularly seeking companies that bring the big chains’ advantages to independent restaurants.

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