9.14.2016: Restaurant Tech Investment / Robots / Umi Kitchen


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Restaurant Tech Investment Headed Toward a Record Year

According to research from CB Insights, funding to restaurant-tech startups will reach an all-time high of $600 million by the end of the year. In this case, “restaurant tech” is defined as: “B2B hardware and software startups that aid in restaurant operations.”

The report continues that, so far this year, the number of deals is down, but the investment amounts are higher. (Interestingly, this is the opposite of recent data that says dollars invested globally in food tech are down for the year, while total number of investments are up.)

The report contains some more relevant data if investments are your thing; but the short version is: people, including the investors with the money to fund such ventures, are excited about restaurant technology. And, great news, the restaurant industry has never been more excited about innovating and adopting new technologies. Let’s go forth and create something awesome.


Are Robots Coming for Our Kitchens?

You can’t talk about restaurant technology without talking about robots, it’s actually impossible. Eaterrecently published a great piece about the potential for automated kitchen workers — where they’ll work, where they won’t, technical challenges, and a likely trajectory for the industry. It also spotlights actual businesses that have robots in kitchens — a Silicon Valley pizza start-up; a German bratwurst-making robot that serves at parties. The article is super thorough, and shares fascinating detail into the current state of robotic food prep.

The associated sidebar, about robots in restaurant dining rooms, is interesting enough to stand on its own. The tl;dr: they are nowhere close to replicating the human ability to adapt, adjust, or impart nuanced requests like off-menu orders or substitutions. Worth a read.

And for good measure, some (months-old) speculation from The Food Rush on the possibility of robots replacing humans in our home kitchens. (Remember Rosie the robot maid from The Jetsons!?)


It’s Come to This: House Passes Bill Protecting Your Right to Write Bad Reviews

Ok, so this isn’t exactly restaurant-specific, but it does have its implications, so stick with me. On Monday, the House passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which would outlaw non-disparagement clauses in contracts. (A non-disparagement clause means you are contractually unable to say negative things about the company with which you’ve entered into an agreement.)

This isn’t the first time online reviews (specifically, the negative ones) landed in the jurisdiction of a court;two years ago, a Virginia court of appeals decided that fake negative reviews (the Yelp kind, mostly) were not protected under our First Amendment right to free speech.

As silly as this may sound on the surface, the underlying principle here is an important one: sharing truthful ,negative business experiences online is important enough to be protected by law. Of course, this doesn’t account for the prevalence of fake negative reviews or the autonomy that ratings and review sites offer (Real talk: people Yelp one star for a restaurant based on the fact that the wait was too long.)


Umi Kitchen Launches in New York

The Business Insider headline will grab you: “The founder of Shake Shack is backing a startup that delivers home-cooked food.” And, indeed, Danny Meyer is all about new technology and new ideas. It also happens that one of the founders of this startup, an app called Umi Kitchen, is his daughter, Hallie.

Umi Kitchen, a New York City-based food delivery app, promises to deliver a home-cooked meal. Apparently, the idea came after another founder, CEO Khalil Tawil, tired of meals like Chipotle and Shake Shack (ha) — and wanted something less industrial. So, they invited home cooks to essentially apply to cook for strangers who want home-cooked meals delivered via an app.

As for the logistics: founders evaluate all of the food before accepting a cook. Their only guidelines, according to BI, are that each chef should have a “signature meal” and that it should be enough quantity to feed a hungry adult. Also: every accepted cook has to pass food safety training — the same training required of restaurant workers. (This detail is a big deal. There are an endless stream of ideas for “Uber for X,” but “Uber for home-cooked meals” only works if food safety can be guaranteed.) Unclear, though, how they get around commercial kitchen regulations in New York, which include health inspections.

The service has been available in Brooklyn since April, and launched yesterday in Manhattan, using Postmates as a delivery partner.

In Short:

Not a lot of surprises in this QSR post about Millennials and the restaurant industry, but I’ve never seen this stat worded quite this way: “Although Baby Boomers spend more money on restaurants, Millennials spend more as a percentage of their overall credit card bills.” (Not surprising, but definitely interesting.)

To Follow:

The Restaurant Innovation Summit, presented by the National Restaurant Association (the other NRA) started yesterday, and continues through tomorrow, 9/15. Follow its #RISummit hashtag on Twitter for excellent insights, ideas, and announcements from tons of people at the forefront of restaurants and technology.


  • Drone deliveries are coming [to college campuses] [from Chipotle] [featuring burritos!] — Eater
  • Fun promotion: order an UberEats “Throwback Thursday” lunch tomorrow. It comes with “goodies that will take you back to the days of dial-up” and a can of Pringles — Uber
  • The tech that helped one restaurant fix its scheduling problems — Entrepreneur
  • An unsurprising thing worth watching: Most consumers want to use messaging to interact with businesses — TechCrunch

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