Online ordering is pretty awesome when you have a name that people can’t seem to grasp over the phone. Even though I order take-out from the same sushi restaurant around the corner just about every week, they still can’t get my name right when I call. But for small, independent restaurants (like my favorite sushi place), creating their own branded online ordering system isn’t a possibility, and they end up having to farm their customers out to third party ordering systems like GrubHub.
ChowNow, an online ordering platform for restaurants, aims to change that, and the company announced Wednesday that it has raised $3 million in a Series A round led by existing investor GRP Partners, with help from Daher Capital, Double M Capital, Karlin Ventures, and Velos Partners.
Where third-party ordering services like GrubHub are consumer-facing services that let users search for restaurants in the system, ChowNow lets independent and large chain restaurants alike build their own custom, branded ordering system, complete with their own app, as well as Web and Facebook ordering systems.
“If a restaurant sends a customer to a portal (GrubHub, etc.), it would be like Delta sending a customer to Kayak or Priceline to buy tickets,” said ChowNow co-founder and CEO Christopher Webb, in a statement.
Indeed, the logic seems a little strange. Restaurants redirect their customers to a portal, where they might end up finding something else they like. And if they do end up ordering through a third-party system, the restaurant will be handing over a cut of the transaction.
ChowNow currently serves large restaurant chains like CiCi’s Pizza and Ground Round, as well as smaller, independent restaurants and eateries. Launched in May 2012, the company aims to have 1,000 new restaurants using its platform in the first half of 2013. ChowNow is also working on three new features: expanded CRM capabilities, push notifications, and catering, which is currently in beta.
"GRP works with entrepreneurs solving important challenges for many people. ChowNow has the potential to significantly improve the way restaurants communicate with their customers,” said GRP partner Steven Dietz, in a statement. “This is a large opportunity and the innovative team at ChowNow has already begun delivering on their promises to restaurants and their customers.”