The restaurant technology sector is facing a reckoning this year as some diners revert to pre-pandemic habits and layoffs plague the industry. Venture-capital dollars, given the economic climate, have also become harder to come by for startups.
But PreciTaste, a foodtech company founded in 2012, believes it stands out in a saturated foodtech space. Its AI technology, it says, is helping solve two seemingly eternal problems in the restaurant industry: food waste and labor shortages.
PreciTaste uses cameras installed around quick-service, or QSR, restaurants — for example, in drive-thru lanes and in dining areas — to weigh food supply in kitchens versus customer demand throughout the day. Using multiple data points, its AI makes recommendations to workers via touchscreens on exactly how much food to prepare.
The technology focuses on worker productivity and sustainability. CEO Ingo Stork-Wersborg, who founded the company alongside his wife, Laura, told Insider that with PreciTaste’s technology, “a crew of five can do what usually a crew of seven must do.” His company’s flagship product can also eliminate 85% of food waste at point of sale for QSR restaurants, he recently told TechCrunch.
“Compared to another company that may be good in AI or computer division in general, there are some very specific applications that you need in order to assess inventories,” Stork-Wersborg said. “It’s important to have the expertise for the food operations as well.”
Investors are now buying into the company’s tech.
PreciTaste closed a $24 million Series A funding round in August, co-led by Cleveland Avenue and Melitas Ventures. The Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer’s Enlightened Hospitality Investments and Monogram Capital Partners also participated in the round.
“The QSR industry has experienced a challenging few years, made worse by staff shortages as a result of the pandemic,” said Michael Steib, a partner at Melitas Ventures. “The most significant issues relate to rapid staff turnover and food waste. PreciTaste’s tools can help address these challenges.”
Another headwind QSR restaurants face is a slowdown in patrons as consumers react to higher menu prices and inflation, NPD said. A recent company study found that QSR restaurant visits in the second quarter were down 2% compared to the same period last year.
“As the restaurant and hospitality industry faces unparalleled adjacent challenges of labor shortages, supply-chain disruptions, and inflationary pressures, technologies like PreciTaste that work alongside team members to help them operate even more efficiently are increasingly paramount to success,” said Meyer, who’s also invested in restaurant startups, including Goldbelly and BentoBox, in the past through his Enlightened Hospitality Investments fund.
“Our team has been uniformly impressed with PreciTaste’s ability to reduce food waste and drive productivity across its restaurant partners,” he added.
PreciTaste was bootstrapped until its Series A announcement this month. Stork-Wersborg said investors came away impressed with PreciTaste’s product as a means to push QSR restaurants to become more proactive about limiting food waste and improving worker efficiency.
PreciTaste plans on using its new funding to expand its customer base. The company said it has deployed its technology in more than 1,500 restaurants, but it didn’t share specific clients. A company spokesperson said PreciTaste counts “four of the top six major food chains in the US” as users.
PreciTaste is just one of many foodtech startups looking to improve workflow in QSR kitchens. Others include its direct competitor Agot and Miso Robotics, whose “Flippy 2” robots are being leveraged by chains such as White Castle to help workers cook orders in kitchens.
Stork-Wersborg said, “We think it’s very relevant what we do and will continue to be relevant.”
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