Brendan Sweeney didn’t know anything about the restaurant business before he and his co-founders launched the Atlanta-based startup Popmenu.
What Sweeney did know was that it was nuts that while every other business was using incredible graphics, curated text, carefully crafted images and fancy videos to make their pitch to customers, restaurants were — posting a text-based menu.
“It’s just crazy that restaurants present their inventory, which is their whole story, their whole selling proposition, in plain text,” Sweeney said.
Popmenu, he company he co-founded with three former colleagues from software businesses around the Atlanta area (and which has closed on $17 million in new financing) offers a solution.
What the company’s software aims to do is keep customers on restaurant’s own online real estate by incorporating third-party reviews, images, recommendations and better descriptions into the web pages that it hosts for the culinary creators that use its service. “If you had all that information on a restaurant website it would probably reduce the need to bounce out so much,” Sweeney said.
Popmenu does more than just prettify web pages for the savory savants whose coding skills may not match their craft in the kitchen. The software also helps with social media management, emailing and, yes, even the all-important delivery services that have become vital in the time of a still-spreading pandemic.
It’s the pandemic that juiced the company’s growth, Sweeney said. “We saw 10 years of trends in the first 10 weeks of COVID-19,” he said. “A lot of people were unprepared for it.”
Sweeney and his co-founders Mike Gullo, Anthony Roy and Justis Blasco had all worked together at either CareerBuilder or Commissions Inc. It was the experience at Commissions that actually gave Sweeney and his colleagues the idea to start Popmenu.
Where Commissions was about designing tools to help local real estate agents and brokers take some power back from the large online platforms that were eating their lunch, Popmenu is bringing the same tools for small businesses to restaurateurs.
“I got this playbook for helping small business with SaaS. [And we’re] helping restaurants take control back from Yelp and Tripadvisor,” said Sweeney.
Other companies around the country, like ChowNow out of Los Angeles, are trying to do something similar. But while ChowNow is focused on online ordering, Popmenu started with marketing and… well… making menus “pop.”
The company is going to use the new cash it raised to add services like on-premises contactless transactions and from there could have a connection from the front-of-the-house to the back-of-the-house operations and ordering and fulfillment services.
Existing investors like Base10 Partners and Felicis Ventures returned to finance the company’s Series B along with new lead investor Bedrock Capital. Popmenu has also received some celebrity financing in the form of a commitment from Mantis VC, the newly launched investment firm from the wildly popular Chainsmokers band.
Apparently, they wanted something just like this, according to Milan Koch of Mantis VC. “When Alex, Drew and I met the Popmenu team, it was obvious to us right away how much they really cared about restaurateurs,” Koch said in a statement. “Having close ties with owners and hospitality groups worldwide and knowing the unique challenges they face, we got excited about how Popmenu’s product could help impact their businesses in so many different ways.”
Popmenu sells its software for a monthly fee starting at $269 per-location.
“So many industries have experienced radically accelerated trends through the COVID crisis, probably none more so than the restaurant industry,” said Sweeney, in a statement. “They’ve embraced technology as key to weathering these challenging times. We are fired up to give them even more help attracting guests and reducing costs and complexity on the road to recovery.”