VCs Are Hungry for Fast-Casual ‘Food Platforms’

After elevating $200 million in a Series H funding spherical final November, the culty salad chain Sweetgreen turned the first-ever restaurant unicorn. Cold-pressed upstart Joe & the Juice is reportedly plotting a $1.5 billion IPO later this yr. Now kale-scarfing, ginger-quaffing shoppers have VCs salivating over salad.

A brand new batch of food-­centered funding corporations just like the Kitchen Fund and Enlightened Hospitality Investments (run by Shake Shack titan Danny Meyer) are pumping lots of of thousands and thousands of {dollars} into fast-casual startups—or, as they are saying, “early-stage scalable restaurant concepts”—powered by AI and data-mining apps.

Why all of the fuss over lunch? These meals platforms incorporate know-how as a base ingredient. Nearly half of Sweetgreen’s buyer orders are positioned by means of its app; that information is used to tweak menu choices and make customized suggestions. A proposed replace would even use 23andMe outcomes to create meals which might be “customized” to your microbiome—a seemingly doubtful aim, given our present understanding of genetics and intestine science. Sweetgreen predicts its every day meals wants and minimizes waste with the assistance of machine studying that crunches data like historic purchases, climate, and native occasions. IoT sensors at suppliers’ farms monitor rising situations, and the corporate says it has began monitoring produce from seed to retailer with logs constructed atop the blockchain.

“The next five years will be more disruptive to food service operators than the last 50,” says restaurant marketing consultant Aaron Allen, pointing to the growth in on-line ordering, which is predicted to develop practically 4 occasions sooner than the remainder of the restaurant trade, and in delivery-only “ghost kitchens.” VCs are betting that diners are prepared to commerce bodily eating places—and private information—for AI-extracted “content.” That’s Sweetgreen-speak for meals.

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