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Kitchen United tested out AI delivery capabilities in a California mall last month.

Tech Tracker: Kitchen United tested an autonomous delivery program

Thanx announces new personalized loyalty program capabilities; Virtual Dining Concepts raises $20 million in funding round, and more

Mergers and acquisitions continue to dominate the restaurant industry technology news cycle with major acquisitions announced for restaurant website builder PopMenu and POS system HungerRush.

We’re also seeing more funding rounds announced for up-and-coming restaurant tech companies as both customer and back-of-house solutions for operators become more in-demand, including a $20 million series A funding round for Virtual Dining Concepts.

AI and automation are also at the top of restaurant tech wish lists, especially as labor shortages continue. New solutions abound, like Kitchen United testing out autonomous delivery in partnership with a Westfield shopping center in California.

Tech Tracker rounds up what’s happening in the technology sector of the restaurant industry, including news from restaurants, vendors, digital platforms and third-party delivery companies. Here’s what you need to know this week:

Thanx Loyalty 3.0 launching soon with personalization capabilities

Guest engagement and retention platform Thanx announced that it will soon be launching “Thanx Loyalty 3.0” in 2022, to meet the demands of customers for increasingly personalized loyalty programs. The loyalty program update will include capabilities to use customer data for creating personalized loyalty experiences for customers.

“While the concept of loyalty is certainly not new, for many retailers, especially restaurants, the COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on the importance of capturing customer data. The flood of new programs to the market including the recent program launches of McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Popeye’s, highlight the importance of differentiating and personalizing the guest experience to better serve individuals,” says Zach Goldstein, founder, and CEO of Thanx.

Thanx will begin offering select capabilities to its customers ahead of the grand launch next year, including insights, recommendations and automatec A/B testing.

Kitchen United tested autonomous delivery

Ghost kitchen network Kitchen United concluded last month a test of autonomous delivery capabilities in partnership with Westfield Valley Fair: a shopping mall in Silicon Valley, Calif. Kitchen United’s five-day autonomous delivery test will feature a robot from KiwiBot delivering restaurant orders via the Mix at Westfield app from Westfield Valley Fair mall to residences in the area. The robot was able to move food from the restaurants to the Mix at Westfield pickup center during the test from Oct. 18-22.

The purpose of this program pilot is to test these capabilities for further dives into robot-powered food delivery ventures. Participating vendors include AnQi Shaken and Stirred, Koja Kitchen, Vietnoms, Rooster & Rice, Psycho Donuts, Pokeatery, Men Oh Ramen, among others.


Robert Earl’s Virtual Dining Concepts raises $20 million

Virtual Holdings — the parent company of Robert Earl’s ghost kitchen network, Virtual Dining Concepts — announced on Oct. 27 a $20 million round of Series A funding for the growing restaurant delivery company.

The fundraising round was led by numerous investors including Spice Private Equity, a subsidiary of GP Investments.

Proceeds from the funding round will be used to fund technology development, corporate infrastructure, additional marketing and customer support needs in order to boost revenues.

Virtual Dining Concepts is known for its celebrity-backed brands such as Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen, Mariah Carey’s Cookies, Buddy V’s Cake Slice and MrBeastBurger, which brings immediate brand awareness and marketing clout to the new virtual brands.

Miso Robotics launches Flippy the robot 2.0

Miro Robotics — known as the creator of the popular Flippy the fry cook robot — is releasing the latest version of its autonomous product in partnership with White Castle. Flippy 2 can now take over an entire fry station, eliminating the need for a human fry cook, and can help create a safer environment for back-of-house employees by automatically transferring hot food items (thereby lessening the risk of spills and burns).

This new model is also smaller, taking up 56% less “aisle space” and 13% less height than its previous model.

This Flippy will take over its predecessor’s fry post at the participating pilot program at White Castle.

McDonald’s turns the McRib into an NFT

More restaurant companies than ever are dipping their toes into the world of bitcoin and nonfungible tokens. McDonald’s announced last month that it is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the McRib by unveiling a limited number of McRib NFTs and giving them away to “a few lucky fans.” The contest took place on Nov. 1 and coincided with the physical return of the McRib for a limited time this month.  

Website builder PopMenu acquires aggregator Order Nerd

PopMenu, known for helping restaurants with their online presence, has acquired third-party delivery aggregator OrderNerd, adding to PopMenu’s growing platform of digital solutions options for restaurants. Both companies are based in Atlanta. Currently, PopMenu helps operators with online ordering and waitlisting, and offers AI-enabled, integrated marketing tools in one platform.

With this acquisition, the service will be able to simplify online ordering and consolidate orders from different third-party services into one device, eliminating the need for tablets from each of the third-party delivery companies.

“Restaurants have been told that technology has to be complex. We disagree. We work closely with restaurants to design easy solutions that increase efficiency and sales while eliminating costs,” Brendan Sweeney, CEO and cofounder of PopMenu said in a statement.

Cloud-based system HungerRush acquires Menufy platform

Cloud software provider HungerRush announced on Oct. 27 the acquisition of food ordering platform and network, Menufy, gaining an online ordering platform that can scale quickly. With the acquisition, HungerRush will be able to do even more to continue building digital solutions for restaurants, focused on omnichannel solutions and data driven restaurant management solutions.

“HungerRush opens a multitude of doors for the Menufy team and our customers,” said Sharmil Desai, Menufy CEO in a statement. “By joining a company with an impressive roster of both technology offerings and restaurant customers, Menufy’s customers now have access to a holistic suite of solutions and deep industry expertise designed to strengthen restaurant operations and improve business outcomes.”

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

Find her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi



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