In San Francisco, you can see the future of restaurants … or at least as it’s envisioned by the techies. And no surprise, that dining experience starts with an app.
You didn’t bring your lunch and you don’t have time to go out? Go to your iPhone, look for your favorite restaurant app, and click on the photo of the lunch you want. While they can’t quite zap it to you yet, they’re working on it.
“Ah, here we go. An order, it just popped up on my app!” says Cayden Berkmoyer, a driver at Sprig, one of the many food tech startups popping up in San Francisco. We’re in his car, and in the backseat is a big bag full of assorted boxed lunches. Here’s how Sprig works: When you place an order, an algorithm sends it to the nearest driver.
“The order is for Tanya,” Berkmoyer says, reading off his app — she ordered a kale granola salad. With that, he starts his car and is on his way.
Sprig is like a San Francisco–style restaurant, only on wheels. Lunch is $9, and the food is mostly organic, the meat hormone-free. The startup won’t say if it’s profitable or how many meals it serves a day. But it’s looking to expand into more cities, says Nate Keller, Sprig’s executive chef.
“Sprig is a company whose mission is to bring healthy food to the masses,” Keller says.
And Sprig thinks it can do this by using technology, which will cut out waste and allow it to compete with big restaurants on price while still offering healthier options.
Kent Bennett with Bessemer Venture Partners says, in the past, tech investors stayed away from food.
“The challenges are immense,” he says. “Most of the companies we invest in move ones and zeros around, and food tech companies, you’re moving heirloom tomatoes around. You know, they start to rot the second they come off the vine.”
And rotting food, a big problem in the restaurant industry, is money down the drain. But Bennett says with the tech boom, investors are giving food another look.
“This is a trillion-dollar market. There’s no category of software that even begins to approach that number,” Bennett says. “And there’s a lot of pain in the food space, whether it’s health and wellness or affordability.”
And Bennett says venture capitalists are betting that startups can use mobile computing and big data to take away some of the pain, and take on traditional food companies.
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