“NYC has just shut all restaurants,” one of our board members emailed on the evening of March 15.
The last eight months have posed incredible challenges for the hospitality industry. We have watched the 500,000+ independent restaurants in America adapt, struggle, persevere and overcome endless obstacles in a way we never thought possible. On the best days it has been inspiring and on the hardest days it has been heartbreaking.
BentoBox was founded in 2013 to serve these restaurants, the heart and soul of our communities. Our mission is to empower the world’s restaurants to succeed in their mission of hospitality. Our mission has never been more important.
BentoBox supported the digital transformation of restaurants long before the global pandemic. So, on that evening of March 15, I made a commitment to myself, my team and the industry I love to not waver. We have continued to mobilize, pivot and do whatever it takes to serve restaurants.
That means providing restaurants with a digital property, powered by BentoBox, when their brick and mortar locations shut down or operated at a reduced capacity.
It also means adapting our offerings, quickly and efficiently. At the start of the pandemic, we adapted our new Online Ordering product so that restaurants could launch it with or without a website. Soon after, we launched contactless ordering and payments.
But while we provided the technology, it was our restaurant partners that found ingenious ways to use it. We watched our customer base utilize our product more than ever and in the most creative ways. From gift cards towards reopening or tickets for online pasta making classes, BentoBox partnered with thousands of restaurants to identify and power new revenue streams.
Seattle-based restaurant Buddha Bruddah, which uses BentoBox for its website and online ordering, told The Wall Street Journal that “initially my plan was to keep a skeleton crew together, but once we started rocking [with online ordering], I didn’t have to lay off one employee.”
Emmy Squared and Emily, with locations in New York, D.C., Philadelphia, Nashville, and Louisville, began selling affordable Family Meals on their BentoBox websites. Co-founder Emily Hyland said that Family Meals are “an awesome way to let people into our community and offer foods that make them feel really good.”
Beyond our product offering, BentoBox worked to give back in as many ways as possible with platform credits, office hours, webinars and daily support. We partnered with Funding Circle to get restaurants access to hundreds of thousands of dollars in PPP loans and established a COVID-19 relief checkout feature that facilitated $300k, and counting, donated by diners. The list goes on. Our team was and continues to be motivated to do everything possible to support this industry that we deeply love.
As restaurants emerge from COVID-19 more digital and more self-reliant, it’s become undeniably clear that they need intuitive tools to own their digital storefront, drive demand and drive revenue, without paying detrimental commissions. BentoBox has led the industry in this shift. It’s critical that we continue to support restaurants as they build strong, digital-enabled businesses — while maintaining their unique vision of hospitality.
There is certainly more to do. We have big ideas for how to help restaurants connect more deeply and natively with their customers without relying on third parties and marketplaces. And right now, the best way BentoBox can support the industry is by getting our product into the hands of as many restaurants as possible.
To do so, we wanted a partner that supported our mission and believed in our vision. Luckily, I had started a relationship with the team at Goldman Sachs in 2019. I was impressed by Goldman’s commitment through the Launch With GS initiative to be proactive about investing in female leadership. This feels particularly poignant to say the week after we witnessed the United States elect its first-ever female Vice President.
As important, the GS Growth team had already done a lot of work in the restaurant technology space. There was no need to explain why BentoBox was critical to restaurants. They just got it. Their excitement about how our product was differentiated and the opportunity ahead was palpable. In October, BentoBox closed a $28.8mm Series C led by GS Growth to continue to deliver on our mission of hospitality.
So what next? We’re investing in product and engineering to continue to build new and improved technology for restaurants. We’re hiring more people to get the word out to the independent restaurant owners across America who have a dream of offering great food and the blessings of hospitality. Together, we can get through the massive waves of disruption that threaten our industry.
And together, we will.
Krystle Mobayeni, Co-Founder and CEO