Independent restaurant owners used to heavily rely on foot traffic as their way of marketing. In 2020, the global pandemic changed all that.
Overnight, restaurants needed to set up online ordering, have a plan for pick-up and delivery and find new ways to get in front of customers no longer going out to eat.
Inspired by his mother’s struggles to attract customers to her dog grooming business, Adam Guild teamed up with Dean Bloembergen to create Owner.com to help independent restaurant owners better manage their online presence.
“People are hurting worse than ever in the restaurant industry because the inflation has created rising labor costs and rising food costs,” Guild told TechCrunch. “It’s compressing the already low profit margins of these restaurant owners, so it is more important to them than ever to figure out ways to increase sales and save money.”
To that end, Owner.com offers an all-in-one platform for restaurants that includes online ordering, a website builder, customer relationship management tools, marketing automation and a branded mobile app generator.
Restaurant sales were poised to reach sales of $997 billion in 2023, according to the National Restaurant Association. That provides huge opportunities for companies like Owner.com, Guild said.
There’s also room for other startups to leverage technology with tools focused on mom-and-pop restaurants. Last year, Superorder raised $10 million to help restaurants with their online presence, and there are dozens of companies with operations tools to manage both the front and back of the house, including Zitti, MarginEdge, OneOrder and TouchBistro.
To differentiate itself more, Owner.com recently tapped into artificial intelligence for new features, including an email marketer. As he described it, restaurant owners can start typing in a sentence of what they want the email to say or do. For example, “Tell my customers about my new yellow curry,” and the AI will produce an email for them designed in their style, written in their tone and ready to go out to customers.
Today, the company has thousands of customers after tripling the number in the past year. Owner processes hundreds of millions of dollars annually for its customers and yields tens of millions in revenue, Guild said.
Now the company raised $33 million in Series B funding on a $200 million post-money valuation, Guild said. Existing investors Redpoint Ventures and Altman Capital co-led the round with participation from Horsley Bridge, Activant Capital and Transpose Platform Management. Total capital raised is now $58.7 million.
Guild expects to continue investing in engineering teams and design teams to cater to what his customers are saying they need. In addition to the AI-powered email marketer, there are other tools in the pipeline.
“Even just five years ago, it used to be enough to provide great food and great service because those things are hard to do on their own,” Guild said. “It’s no longer enough if you want to be a successful restaurant. More of the guest experience has shifted online, even where people discover restaurants. Large corporations can afford to spend billions of dollars on teams of engineers and marketers and ad spend. Independent restaurant owners are being screwed over. What we are building is to help these mom-and-pop owners not only survive as a result of this technological change, but continue to thrive as more of their business goes online.”