Last month we hosted IDEATE, a day-long event that highlighted the innovative work of leading restaurateurs and food entrepreneurs. We believe restaurants are critically important to our economy, culture, and society. The current economic model is broken, but we can fix it. Through panels, a startup showcase, and of course, an after-party, attendees took part in exchanging ideas, networking, and identifying additional opportunities for innovation. But the discussion is far from over. In the spirit of IDEATE, here are four products changing the face of restaurant tech.
For any manager who's ever needed last-minute shift coverage (read: everyone), Jobletics could be a game-changer. Whether they need a dishwasher or line cook, users get matched with a "joblete," one of many vetted food workers available through the free app on a shift-by-shift basis. "We're really hitting at the core needs of both sides of the marketplace," says founder Rahul Sharma. "The employees get autonomy and flexibility and employers have a safe bet for staff they can count on."
Under the tagline "Get shift done," Jobletics has a double-sided rating system to ensure good work experiences. The app also offers the opportunity for a new type of hiring process. "It gives employers a great opportunity to test out workers with hands-on training," says Sharma. "On Craigslist, on all these other websites, you're kind of throwing darts in the air." In the future, they're looking to spread awareness about the transparency and simplicity of Jobletics and expand into the Greater Boston area. (We love that Sharma and co-founder Gabe Ellis-Ferrara met at a Branchfood event!)
Nix86, founded by individuals who brought you Bertucci's and FiRE+iCE, is a tablet-based app that saves its users up to 50% on time spent ordering and managing inventory and up to 10% on product costs. "Product purchases including food, beverage, and supplies are typically the single largest cost center for a restaurant, over 30% of every dollar generated," says CEO Alex Hardy. "Our reporting tools give owners and accountants the information needed to make faster, better buying decisions and to reduce cash tied up in unnecessary inventory."
The service, though employed mostly by independent restaurants like Bistro781, is also useful to small chains like FiRE+iCe. Hardy, along with co-founders Jim Miller and Margaret Olson (former CTO of Constant Contact), designed the app in response to his own restaurant experience and the need for a more streamlined supply system. "The future of ordering, receiving, and inventory management for this industry will be digital and integrated from end-to-end," says Hardy. "This is a segment of the restaurant industry that's been traditionally underserved by technology." Nix86 got started right here in Boston, citing the MassChallenge accelerator program as a particularly formative time for the company. A 2015 MassChallenge winner, the product has enjoyed promising success less than a year after its conception.
Inspired by a background in health and safety regulations, Manik Suri and Ranjeet Sidhu created CoInspect, an app to streamline product standardization and code observance. "CoInspect is a digital clipboard that's loaded up with a library of content," says Suri. "You could use the tool to digitize all of your quality, safety, and compliance checks, whether it's production or daily sanitation." The product allows access to hundreds of digital checklists, saving users the hassle of rooting through government websites and manuals for workplace safety or energy efficiency guidelines. Suri, a graduate of Harvard Law, works alongside food industry veterans to make the legalese of running a business less of a headache.
CoInspect is also designed to standardize customer experience, particularly in businesses with more than one location. "Anywhere in the world you go, you'll hear the same type of music being played at Starbucks," Suri explains. "It's a way to manage and maintain the highest brand standards, globally." Most CoInspect subscribers have between five and fifty locations, but lately Suri's been running pilots for companies with up to five thousand. "The nice thing about it is the product can scale," he says. "We love to work with people that want simplification and better tools."
Peach is a delivery service that caters to busy people trapped in office buildings come lunchtime. Founded in Seattle, Peach is rapidly spreading through Greater Boston. Users receive a text every morning of the work week that announces that day's lunch options -- meat, vegetarian, or carb-lite -- selected from a renowned restaurant such as Flour, Chicken & Rice Guys, Naco Taco, or Punjabi Dhaba. Respond "yes" and the meal is delivered straight to your workplace. "The service is all based around delivery," says head of Boston operations Evan Becker. "We can get tacos from Cambridge to Seaport, or great Thai food out to Waltham." For Becker, it's personal: "I worked in Waltham for over four years. I just remember going down for that sad trip to the cafeteria at the bottom of the building, knowing there was better food out there but I didn't have time to get it."
If you're interested in trying Peach, you'll need fifty people from your office to sign up. That number almost guarantees a certain amount of orders per day that makes delivery worth it to the participating restaurant. As an added bonus, ordering in bulk means no delivery fees or gratuities, sometimes even lowered prices -- the majority of dishes on Peach cost $10 or under. If your office is right for Peach, it could make lunch in the workplace that much more enjoyable.
Stay tuned for more food industry updates from Branchfood. Didn't make it to IDEATE? Want to continue the discussion? Join us next Monday, May 23rd, for a followup to IDEATE at Tavern Rd. Register for free here.