Acelerate, a software company looking to help restaurants make the most out of their infrastructure, is today announcing the close of a $14.44 million Series A financing led by Sequoia Capital.
The startup was founded by George Jacobs, who grew up working in his family’s pizzeria. He attended USC with a plan to get a business degree and ultimately expand Georgee’s Pizza, but realized that there was an opportunity beyond his own family restaurant to help all kinds of restaurants in the wake of the tech boom.
After a couple of years at Doordash, he came up with the idea for Acelerate, a startup working to give restaurants a way to make the most of their infrastructure.
The first piece of the business is a simple software solution that allows restaurants to manage their entire digital footprint, from order management, pricing, menu updates and changes, to sales and marketing. The idea is that many restaurants are selling through their own brick-and-mortar location, of course, but also selling through a bevy of other platforms like Doordash, Uber Eats or Seamless. On top of that, their restaurants are listed on OpenTable, Yelp and other marketing platforms.
It can be a lot to manage.
Acelerate’s SaaS product allows restaurants to manage all of these platforms from a single spot.
But where the company really differentiates from rival players is its licensing business. Acelerate has developed seven proprietary restaurant brands, all with their own menus. They license those brands, complete with the recipes, cooking instructions, and a training guide for restaurants who want to offer more through their online sales portals.
For example, an ice cream shop working with Acelerate may have a strong business in the summer, but struggle in the winter. That same ice cream shop may have a full working kitchen that rarely gets used save for what it takes to make ice cream and cones.
Acelerate allows that shop to license the rights to operate a burger shop or a BBQ joint out of that same space, teaching employees how to make a bacon cheeseburger or a rack of ribs, thus creating an additional revenue stream for that restaurant during leaner months for its traditional business.
Moreover, Acelerate not only licenses its own brands, but works with existing restaurant brands to license out their menus to other restaurant partners.
Thus far, Acelerate has signed on three existing restaurants as brand licensing partners.
Big chains, like Applebees, only use the software piece of Acelerate, but smaller restaurants gravitate toward the licensing product as a way to expand their business, it said. As cloud kitchens trend upward, the startup has found a way to turn existing restaurants into cloud kitchens, as well.
The software side of the business operates as expected, on a monthly subscription model. On the licensing side, restaurants can license one of the brands offered through Acelerate, either homegrown or third party. Acelerate collects a 40% fee from restaurant partners, which includes all third-party marketplace, order processing and delivery fees, as well as promotional spend. The startup also negotiates national food distribution deals to help restaurants get up and running with a new ingredient list.
Jacobs told TechCrunch that Acelerate is currently working with thousands of restaurants on the software side, and that hundreds of stores are licensing the Acelerate brands.
The startup’s new capital will be used toward further growth of the team and product. Right now, Acelerate has 11 full-time employees, and about half of them are women or underrepresented minorities, according to Jacobs.
Jacobs explained that the unique opportunity for the company is that it’s not purely a software play that sits on top of an already complicated tech stack.
“The big opportunity lies in the combination of two great pieces of operating a restaurant, which is technology and operations,” said Jacobs. “To do that, we believe that proximity is power and we need to be as close to our customers as possible. That’s why we’re really doubling down on building local teams and ensuring that we’re hands-on with our operator and restaurant partners.”