Tech Tracker: The Great Tech Integration Race

The restaurant technology industry has been expanding at a rapid pace over the past few years, with dozens of new tech solutions and vendors being added seemingly every month. These technology vendors range from one-off solutions (that are more likely to be purchased or merged with a larger company soon) to fully realized companies with a suite of tech features and options for customers. As operator needs for technology options grow, technology integration becomes even more crucial, and vendors that don’t play well with others will be left behind.

This month, multiple tech companies announced major integrations and mergers, including Soundhound partnering with Olo, PopMenu integrating with OpenTable, and Uber Direct partnering with Deliverect.  

In other news this month, Canadian all-in-one SaaS Snappy and Superorder (formerly known as forward Kitchens) both announced rounds of funding to spread to new markets and new capabilities, and more.

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 a breakdown of what you need to know and why:

Deliverect, Soundhound, Popmenu, and Lunchbox all announce major integrations

As integrations become more of an assumed feature than a perk, the largest POS systems and SaaS companies like Toast, Square, and Olo are implementing tools to advertise and organize their growing list of technology company integrations. Many tech vendors are even partnering with current or former competitors to keep up with operator demand for a fully integrated system of tech features that can speak the same language.

Some technology companies have been acting as middleman between third-party vendors and operators for years: Global SaaS company Deliverect integrates online orders from multiple delivery channels and just announced a partnership with Uber Direct, that will cover nine international markets, including the U.S. Operator customers will be able to use Deliverect Dispatch to tap into the Uber network of couriers to keep up with consumer delivery demands and integrate these capabilities across digital channels.

“As interest in third-party delivery platforms skyrocketed during the pandemic, it has become increasingly important for restaurant businesses to have a system in place that enables them to easily manage both delivery orders and driver or customer pick-up processes,” Deliverect CEO Zhong Xu told Nation’s Restaurant News. “Our industry now has a new normal where delivery, contactless ordering and payments, and other digital experiences are here to stay…. Restaurants that invest in technology solutions and integrate their tech stacks to optimize their operations will be best positioned for future success.”

Third-party delivery optimization has become a new normal for restaurants hoping to keep up with the demand of digital orders, but AI solutions are starting to become just as popular with operators. Voice AI company Soundhound announced this month a partnership with Olo, which will add its voice AI capabilities to 77,000 restaurants in Olo’s portfolio. Soundhound already is integrated with major POS systems Square, Toast, and Oracle, so this is the next logical step. Soundhound will be a part of Olo Connect: Olo’s connected ecosystem of technology providers that launched in April to make integrations easier among the network of tech vendor partners.

“At Olo, we are constantly looking to connect our restaurant brands to innovative technology through our partner network that keeps them ahead of the curve,” Nolan DeCoster, SVP of Partnerships and Business Development at Olo. “We are thrilled to partner with SoundHound to bring their voice AI to multiple ordering applications within restaurants, an exciting step forward in our pursuit to help build the restaurant of the future for our customers.”

Soundhound also recently announced a partnership with Samsung to roll out new digital outdoor signage for drive-thru lanes that will work seamlessly with the voice AI technology and will be tested through White Castle—one of Soundhound’s first operator partners.

Like Soundhound and Samsung, Popmenu recently announced a symbiotic integration with a new partner that just makes sense for its brand. The digital marketing and online ordering technology provider is partnering with OpenTable to add easy menu uploading and editing capabilities for its customers, and menus edited through Popmenu will automatically update on OpenTable.

“Integrations are critical. We’ve seen too many restaurants—even some of the largest and most well-resourced groups—struggling to manage 10 or more different tools that don’t talk to each other,” Brendan Sweeney, CEO of Popmenu told Nation’s Restaurant News. “Popmenu intentionally built our platform to not only consolidate tools, but to integrate with partners who can complement what we do to help restaurants…. If we don’t offer a particular solution, we’ll either build it or integrate with a partner—because, at the end of the day, it’s about what’s good for the restaurant and their guests.”

Other recent integrations and mergers in the tech space include Lunchbox partnering with Finix to add a fully-integrated payment solution to its suite of digital tools for restaurants; and Fiserv-owned companies BentoBox and Clover announcing a deeper integration across both products, including features like kiosks, reservations, and menu management. Australian startups Mr Yum and Me&u announced an all-stock merger of both companies this month, and will offer combined suites of mobile ordering, QR code menus, and digital marketing options for restaurant brands.

Marco’s Pizza tests automated vehicles for first-ever last-mile delivery partnership

Marco’s Pizza announced this month that the pizza chain is partnering with mobility technology company Magna to test last mile delivery solutions, including an electric, autonomous on-road delivery vehicle, an electric, autonomous sidewalk delivery robot, and an electric two-wheel bike. Although Marco’s has offered both first-party and third-party delivery options for years, this is the first time the brand is partnering with a last-mile delivery company.

“We continue to invest in innovations that drive our franchisee’s businesses forward while meeting the needs of today’s modern customer,” Rick Stanbridge, executive vice president and chief information officer of Marco’s told Nation’s Restaurant News. “Meanwhile, Magna continues to identify opportunities in the new mobility ecosystem where its capabilities can unlock new growth areas and new business models. Our strategic collaboration is mutually beneficial as we explore this forward-thinking approach in the growing last-mile delivery market.”

SuperOrder (Forward Kitchens) adds AI tools and announces funding

AI-based digital tools that generate menu images, menu items, and even online ordering portals are becoming more popular recently. In the wake of a $10 million series A funding round, all-in-one delivery and takeout operating system SuperOrder (formerly known as Forward Kitchens) is adding a whole suite of AI tools, including a website builder, AI-curated menu and imagery, delivery management system, automated marketing software, and an off-premises financial management tool all powered by artificial intelligence.

Canadian SaaS Snappy comes to the US with new funding round

Another tech company that just announced a fundraising round is SaaS company Snappy, which just closed a series A funding round led by Texas-based Golden Section Ventures, that will allow the company to the U.S. with a suite of features, including point of sale, payment processing, omnichannel ordering, 3rd party delivery apps integration, reservation, loyalty and targeted marketing. 

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