Bbot aims to be a key part of the restaurant technology ecosystem by providing a lot of tools to speed up development across the broader restaurant technology space. After a new $4 million seed round the company is working toward that goal with a total of $7.3 million in funding.
Like a lot of this kind of technology, it’s hard for the non-tech entrepreneur to understand. Basically, cofounder and CEO Steve Simoni said it solves a lot of ubiquitous issues in restaurant technology by bundling a few tools together under one API key. On the other side of the business, there is a seamless QR-ordering experience.
“There are two major products, the core software for merchants and the other piece is the API that we just released—that allows any future tech entrepreneur to leverage our stack. So, we have a bunch of startups with a dream to bring new service to the market that you can build on the Bbot rails,” said Simoni. “The main thing when you come to look at the API if you want to tie in menu management, ordering and payment and manage all the risk and fraud in one API. You can build quickly and build your own service faster. That’s the main thing.”
The company actually got started in robotics. Simoni said he and some fellow Navy engineers were waiting for a beer. They were ready for another drink, so as engineers do, they invented a robotic beer delivery system that would bring it to them. They built one system and tried to sell it, but bar owners said they were more interested in the software that allowed customers to scan a QR code and order seamlessly.
“This was the real insight, when we started the company. We just added the QR code after the robots. We just put the ordering system in and I started looking at the point-of-sale landscape, it’s incredibly fractured. As a young entrepreneur I couldn’t talk to those companies. I don’t want anyone have to go through that,” said Simoni. “I think anyone should be able to start a restaurant tech company without talking to a business development person.”
With that in mind, company pivoted into the software completely (though you can still see the drink bot at Tokyo Kitty in Cincinnati). Simoni said there is one service for foodservice providers and then the API.
For non-techy folks who haven’t crossed their eyes and moved on yet, that’s a powerful thing. Simoni likened it to the massive payment processing company Stripe that sits behind many apps and tech tools. Having such a technology stack available with just an API key can be extremely powerful. It allows big ideas to go from napkin to app much faster because those founders don’t have to re-build a secure payment system or complex menu management platform. Those founders can just go to Bbot, plug in some information and get a key—no meetings required.
The other service is easier to understand, and it’s already getting some interesting traction. It’s one of a handful of QR-based ordering platforms that have popped up recently. Customers can just point their camera at the QR code, order and pay without a login or downloading an app. It’s a technology that exploded in usage through the COVID-19 pandemic with QR codes sent by mail, featured on doors and windows to avoid handling physical menus. Simoni said it’s been big for casual restaurants that are open as well as hotels and lately some building developers looking to have more options.
“There’s a couple of hotel technology partners building on it and a couple real estate tech people building on it. So, we’ll get into more building-based ordering,” said Simoni, who looked forward to seeing a delivery cubby next to the mailbox in big apartment buildings. It’s something akin to the shelves popping up in residential spaces like the pilot Just Salad is doing in New York.
It’s all still early, and there may be some pivots for Bbot to come, but Simoni said he’s ready to stop fundraising and start executing.
“In a startup, you have to be super focused and have that big vision. This year I’m excited to put my head down and execute. Last year was crazy and I was fundraising a lot,” said Simoni.