EMERGING Fund

The State of Restaurant Tech Venture Capital Funding

Despite the 2023 AI frenzy, PitchBook data showed the funding for U.S. startups dropped by almost 30% compared to 2022. That translates to about $170.6B injected into startups in 2023. That number is also significantly lower than 2021, which saw the peak of venture capital funding, with startups raising $348B.

So, are you wondering who received the lion’s share? 

No surprise to many, OpenAI, the startup that made headlines with ChatGPT and DALL-E, received the top deal of $10B. Stripe, the fintech payment services provider, came in second with $6.5B at a $50 billion valuation. In March 2021, the company was valued at $95B, according to Crunchbase.

So, what about our illustrious industry? Let’s find out.

Global Food Tech

Globally, in 2023, some of the top funding segments in food technology were sustainable packaging ($0.9B) and restaurant software ($0.8B). Interestingly, some segments coincided with trending patterns. For instance, plant-based products raised $0.5B, precision fermentation $0.4B, and functional beverages $0.3B. 

Another growing segment is climate foodtech startups, which account for about one-third of food tech VC funding. The global food system contributes to about 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions, which come from livestock as well as agriculture operations. Regenerative agriculture and aquaculture each received $0.5B.

Restaurant Tech

According to AGFunder, restaurant tech has raised over $61 billion in VC funding over the last decade. Restaurant delivery was one of the first tech startups to raise VC funding. Their data also revealed that, over the last decade, food delivery startups came in at the top 20 funding rounds for all restaurant tech. Other leading segments that received funding include POS systems, FOH management software platforms, digital inventory systems, AI-powered drive-thru lanes, and food waste measurement tools.

The restaurant software startup Snappy secured $7 million in a Series A round. Snappy provides restaurant management technology for POS, loyalty programs, online orders, reservations, mobile apps, and websites, all customer touchpoints. It features online ordering capabilities, a kitchen display system, loyalty programs, QR-based dine-in menus, advanced analytics, and reservation and waitlist management tools. It looks like they marked all the in-demand boxes.

Ghost Kitchens

Ghost kitchens were top contenders during the pandemic. Now, as CNN Business reports, “Ghost kitchens were supposed to revolutionize restaurants. They’re crashing.”

The end of 2023 saw Kitchen United selling or closing all of its locations. This well-known brand was backed by Kroger and had raised $175 in funding. In 2022, CloudKitchens raised $850 million in a funding round. In 2023, it closed locations, laid off staff, and cut back on real estate purchases.

The Wonder Group

In November 2023, Wonder Group, the food delivery startup, received an investment of $100 million from Nestle. Along with the money comes a strategic partnership, with both companies planning to sell prepared food and high-tech kitchen equipment to hotels, hospitals, and sports arenas, according to CNBC.

Wonder Group may sound familiar as they recently made news when they purchased Blue Apron for $103 million. 

In 2022, the mobile restaurant delivery company raised $350 million at a $3.5 billion valuation. Founded in 2018 by Marc Lore, former CEO of Walmart eCommerce, Wonder started out with mobile kitchens in a fleet of trucks that cooked meals in New York and New Jersey suburbs. The undertaking transformed into brick-and-mortar kitchens in 2023 when parking hundreds of vans proved challenging. 

The goal remains the same: to cook high-quality food fast and cook it closer to the customer to retain its original quality. 

Today, Wonder is growing a brick-and-mortar kitchen network, partnering with renowned chefs like Bobby Flay and Michael Symon to create exclusive menus and provide a variety of popular cuisines. The restaurants under the Wonder umbrella include Bobby Flay Steak, Yasas, Jota, Streetbird, Fred’s Texas, Hanu Poke, and many more.

They currently have food halls in New Jersey and New York that offer delivery, pickup, and dine-in. 

The EMERGING Fund

EMERGING’s venture capital fund also made the news when it reported raising over half of the $100 million goal for investments in restaurants, entertainment concepts, and restaurant tech. As of October, the fund had invested in five restaurant tech companies and five early-stage concepts. It’s looking to make up to 25 initial investments.

To learn more about the EMERGING Fund or to schedule a consultation, contact EMERGING.

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