Restaurants rode a wave of usage of food delivery services like Deliveroo, Uber Eats and DoorDash in the last year, discovering new revenues and ways to connect with diners to offset the fact that in-person trade for many of them had disappeared overnight. But they also discovered something less appetizing: dealing with the mess of apps and hardware that they need to use to manage orders from their various services is a nightmare, worse than a deflated souffle or a botched Beef Wellington.
Today, a startup out of Belgium called Deliverect, which has built a platform to manage all of that through one seamless app, is today announcing a big round of funding.
Underscoring the demand for its technology and the bumper year it’s just had, the company has raised $65 million — funding that it will be using to expand its business. That will include the services and integrations that it provides with a wider range of physical point of sale terminals and third-party service providers, and targeting more customers — restaurants, dark kitchens and consumer goods companies building direct-to-consumer strategies — in a wider range of markets.
The funding is being co-led by DST and Redpoint Ventures, with OMERS, Newion, Smartfin and the founders also participating. It brings the total raised by Deliverect to $90 million, and while the valuation is currently not being disclosed, it comes on the heels of big growth. In the last year, the company processed some $1 billion across 30 million orders for its customers, with business growing almost 750% in the last year.
Customers number 10,000 and include the likes of chains like KFC and Pret a Manger, smaller restaurants like Dishoom (an Indian restaurant in London, for readers outside of London), a dark kitchen startup called Casper, and consumer goods giant Unilever.
For some further context on valuation, Toast, a company that provides similar SaaS out of the US, but also sells an all-in-one product that also includes the point-of-sale hardware, is reportedly working on an IPO right now that would value it at $20 billion.
Zhong Xu, the CEO who co-founded Deliverect with Jan Hollez (CTO), Jelte Vrijhoef (CIO), and Jerome Laredo (CRO), recalled in an interview that the idea for the company stretches back to a time when his dad, an Asian transplant to Belgium who had built a point of sale system that he sold to Chinese restaurants, had hoped that his son would take over the family business. He had the entrepreneurial itch, however, and also saw that the problem was bigger than just the range of businesses that his dad was targeting. (His dad is still in business, and they still talk, Xu confirmed.)
That first led Xu and Hollez, also friends outside of work, in 2010, to found POSiOS, which was the first iPad-based point of sale solution in Europe. That business four years later was acquired by Lightspeed, to spearhead its move into POS for restaurants just ahead of its IPO.
That wasn’t the end of the line for these two, though. “We saw that tens of thousands of customers were using our iPad system, but they were asking for something else. They wanted to remove all their tablets altogether,” Xu said.
What he is referring to is a pretty big issue for the typical ready-made food provider. Be it a restaurant, a chain, a dark kitchen or a food company itself, the market for taking and filling food orders is traditionally very fragmented. You will have one proprietary system that is used to manage orders in your restaurant itself, and another for orders that people call in to come pick up and takeaway, and a third for delivery orders taken via third-party platforms.
And that third can be more than one, depending on how many delivery networks your restaurant is using. All of these could feasibly require their own pieces of hardware, and these customers wanted that simplified down to one device alone.
“Just try to imagine being in a restaurant: there could be people there, others calling in, and between 5 and 10 tablets screaming for attention,” Hollez said in an interview. “It is just not possible to manage this.”
The solution that Deliverect, founded in 2018, has built essentially brings all of that into a single SaaS platform that manages all of these different channels in one place.
This gives the food provider a way of adequately monitoring and managing what stock is being used up and which dishes are subsequently off the menu, what orders are coming in and where and how to better manage that across their operations, and critically to update their customers on what they can actually order and how long it might take to fill that order out (a provider like Deliveroo will then also use that data to calculate how long it will take to not just make the order but to pick it up and get it to a customer). Deliverect also provides some analytics that can help its customers figure out how to manage all this better in the future.
While this state of affairs has been a problem for years, it definitely escalated in the last year, Xu said, with between 10% and 30% more orders coming from delivery platforms. The company claims that using its software helps its restaurant customers work significantly more efficiently, leading to an average increase of 25% in revenues and — importantly — an 80% decrease in order failures that resulted from all that chaotic fragmentation.
The work it’s doing with FMCG companies is also interesting: the idea here is that brands themselves have been in a bind that has only tightened in the last year, with usually only a very indirect relationship with customers: perhaps a strong bond in terms of marketing, but not when it comes to actually selling food items to customers: its sales typically involve intermediaries such as stores or restaurants.
But as the D2C trend has taken off in food, those big brands are leaving a lot on the table for competitors to pick up, and that’s even more of an issue when the restaurants and stores are being shut or just seeing less footfall due to Covid-19. So many of them have started to explore what they might do to bridge that gap. Xu said that by and large the focus at the moment is really about running marketing campaigns and getting physical items to people as a part of that, but it does present some very interesting ideas about how Deliverect might develop in the future.
For example, a new wave of ultra-fast grocery delivery startups are emerging, and those could represent a new wave of customers for the company and be a tool for helping the Unilevers of the world supply those platforms with steady streams of its products, or indeed the FMCG companies could leverage those to become direct sellers of their fizzy drinks, pretzels and chocolates (or whatever items they want to sell). Xu noted in fact that Spain’s Glovo, one of these startups, is already a partner.
All of this spells an interesting future, despite the many other companies also chasing the opportunity, one reason why these founders and this startup out of Ghent have been backed by these high-profile international investors.
“The explosive rise of online food delivery is forcing restaurants to change how they operate,” said Elliot Geidt, Managing Director, Redpoint Ventures, in a statement. “Zhong and the Deliverect team are building the tools and infrastructure to help restaurants thrive in a world where navigating online food delivery is a matter of success or failure. Zhong has a unique empathy for restaurant owners, an unmatched technical understanding of the food delivery tech stack, and a raw ambition and vision that leaves us very excited.”
“Restaurants, consumer goods companies and other businesses increasingly want to enable on-demand ordering by their customers,” added Tom Stafford, Managing Partner, DST Global Partners, in his own statement. “But many do not have the tools or technology to efficiently work with on-demand delivery providers. Deliverect is providing key software and integrations to enable these businesses to integrate on-demand offerings seamlessly. We are excited to partner with the Deliverect team as they continue to roll out their technology globally and further develop their product offering.”