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Restaurants Catch Up on Tech

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Published: March 18th, 2022
Demand for new technology drives M&A, turning the attention to PE-backed companies such as HungerRush as acquirers and opportunities.

Foodservice cloud platform HungerRush LLC had a front-row seat to the digital pivot in the restaurant industry in 2020.

Jolted into action by the pandemic, restaurant operators ramped up investments in an array of technologies such as better online ordering, delivery, customer engagement, voice automation and robotics and point-of-sale technologies such as HungerRush, which provides services to national and local restaurant chains.

To capitalize on this growing demand, private equity-backed HungerRush, which is on track to reach $100 million in annual recurring revenue this year, has been rolling up other point-of-sale-related tech companies.

The Houston-based business, which saw off-premise services and digital ordering and marketing as key to the restaurant industry’s growth even before the pandemic hit, tailored its M&A strategy to reflect those priorities, CEO Perry Turbes said.

“Our M&A strategy overall was to find more digital ordering channels and creative ways to enable marketing for our customers,” Turbes said.

Backed by Houston-based CapStreet Group LLC since 2018, over the past two years HungerRush has acquired artificial intelligence-led text ordering platform OrderAI, omnichannel ordering and marketing company 9Fold LLC and Menufy.com LLC for undisclosed sums.

And as restaurants continue to confront thinning margins amid labor shortages and rising food costs, as well as the need for off-premise services, companies such as HungerRush anticipate more consolidation, particularly for customer-related data analytics and back-office operations.

“Covid accelerated a lot of trends that were already going on in the restaurant space,” said Tom Wells, managing partner at private equity firm and restaurant investor 10 Point Capital LLC. “The industry was lagging with technology up until three or four years ago. In a lot of ways, it’s still getting caught up.”

Strategic restaurant technology companies, large restaurant brands, private equity and venture capital are all expected to be active as buyers or investors, putting the spotlight on growing startups.

For instance, customer relationship management software Sevenrooms Inc., which counts Black Sheep Restaurants, MGM Resorts International and Bloomin’ Brands Inc. (BLMN) among its clients, has facilitated 500 million bookings on its platforms as of 2020 and is partnering with point-of-sale system providers globally to broaden its geographic reach.

Tiger Global Management LLC-backed DYN365 Inc., or Restaurant365, meanwhile, is planning to expand its employee base to “keep up with accelerating growth,” according to a statement in December, following key executive hires in sales and marketing and the acquisition of restaurant workforce and business intelligence software Compeat Inc. in June.

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