Startup Spotlight: Zuppler seeks a bigger piece of the $150B food delivery pie

The startup: Zuppler is an online ordering platform integrated into restaurant websites that is available on desktop and mobile apps.

Founded: 2011

Home base: Conshohocken

Founder: Shiva Srinivasan spent years building enterprise application software. About 12 years ago, he was amazed that he could order pizza online from Domino’s, but he felt that the experience was limited.

“At that point, my goal was that somebody should be able to order online faster than going up to the phone and to make it more convenient and useful for the user,” said Srinivasan, who didn’t have a background in the food or restaurant industries.

The product: Zuppler works with restaurants to build an online ordering platform into their own websites.

Zuppler faces tough competition with ordering sites like DoorDash, Grubhub and Toast. Restaurants pay high commission fees — in the realm of about 15% to 30% per order — to delivery apps, but the Zuppler philosophy is in stark contrast, Srinivasan said. Zuppler doesn’t charge transaction fees on orders, but instead charges restaurants a monthly fee for unlimited orders.

“Our focus was to support restaurants to take back control of their customers and their brand in the online space,” Srinivasan said.

Zuppler doesn’t have its own delivery fleet. Restaurants with their own delivery staff can use the platform, and Zuppler can also connect restaurants with local delivery services.

“We believe in promoting local and building the business locally,” he said.

Zuppler also has partnerships with corporations like American Airlines and Marriott to publish restaurant menus on their websites and let customers of those businesses order online for an additional fee. 

The online food delivery industry has more than tripled in size since 2017 to $150 billion, and it continues to grow, according to McKinsey & Co.

The startup operates in 11 different countries, working with nearly 6,000 restaurants across the United States, India, Mexico, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Kuwait, South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Malta. It has 95 employees split across the U.S., India and Romania.

Funding: Zuppler has largely been bootstrapped or funded by angel investors and Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Srinivasan said. The startup has raised about $1.6 million, with its most recent seed round led by SRI Capital, according to Crunchbase. 

The goal: With the growing use of online food ordering apps and the labor shortage facing restaurants, Srinivasan wants Zuppler to build a platform to keep customers up to date on when their orders will be ready. 

The “unified guest experience” platform funnels data from its own site along with delivery apps like Grubhub and DoorDash to accurately predict when customer orders will be ready. If a restaurant gets backed up with orders, they can update the order delivery time to instantly notify the customer.

“When you have all these independent silos, the problem becomes how do you accurately estimate promise times, how do you service customers better, and so on,” Srinivasan said. “And so the timing gets off, and that causes lower customer satisfaction scores and poor reviews.”

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