Restaurant rewards platform Seated is taking pandemic lemons and making lemonade.
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The New York-based company on Tuesday announced a $30 million round of combined Series A and B funding, as well as the acquisition of digital event booking platform VenueBook.
This is Seated’s first institutional investment, Brice Gumpel, co-founder and CEO told Crunchbase News. Prior to this investment, the 3-year-old company had raised two other undisclosed rounds, he said.
Pre-COVID-19, Seated, which launched its platform in 2019, was a restaurant booking and rewards program, leveraging its technology to fill empty seats for dine-in. Then the pandemic closed down restaurants in New York.
“At the beginning, we weren’t exactly sure what to do—COVID-19 derailed plans for our one-, two- and three-year growth trajectory,” Gumpel said. “But, we didn’t want to make any big moves or pivots.”
When the closures began to creep on, Seated started speaking with its restaurant clients to figure out how to adapt, he added. While reservations and walk-ins were halted, restaurants had other revenue streams they could eventually tap into, such as events and food delivery. They asked if Seated could apply its technology to those areas, as well.
“We quickly developed a food delivery system with rewards called Seated at Home,” Gumpel said. “When you look at doing something new, you look to either create or buy, and when we found VenueBook, it made sense to buy so that now we can power demand for events.”
While the food delivery portion is doing well, the events side is still waiting for in-person activities to resume. Potential company clients suggest they may consider booking again in the first quarter, Gumpel said.
VenueBook, founded by Kelsey Recht in 2010, has raised $10.7 million in funding since its inception, according to Crunchbase data. Two of Recht’s employees are staying on with Seated, while Recht will be a senior adviser.
“VenueBook had a great brand and reputation in the industry,” he said. “Any business in the hospitality industry that is restaurant-first does well, and Kelsey embodied that.”
Both companies have a presence in New York, Boston, Chicago and Atlanta, and the acquisition of VenueBook gives Seated access to 120,000 professional event planners and expansion into the New York tri-state area, Denver, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, D.C.
Seated is evaluating new markets in Los Angeles and Texas. The pickup and delivery side of the business is still new, so the company will invest in developing that more. It’s also looking to hire product engineers and folks in sales and account management, Gumpel said.
As for next steps? Gumpel said that is a tricky question to answer given there is still uncertainty when New York will reopen for dine-in and companies will want to begin booking events.
“We know events are important for restaurants, too, so if business were to come back in the first quarter, but they were overwhelmed and distracted and missed out, it would be detrimental,” he added. “We have to be forward-looking if we want to support restaurants.”
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
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