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Entrepreneurs pitch robots, automation to restauranteurs

Veronica Brezina

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The Bryan Glazer Family JCC campus in Tampa. Photo by Veronica Brezina.

Restauranteurs are facing staffing shortages while striving to provide good customer service, and new innovative tech can help ease those burdens. 

Startups in the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator program pitched their products to a roomful of restaurateurs and guests during “The Future of the Restaurant is Here” event Tuesday night, held inside the Bryan Glazer Family JCC’s Tampa campus. 

FIBA collaborated with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association for the fast pitch event.  

The products pitched ranged from robots servers to restaurant management tech tools. 

Meet the startups:

Tabit: Shelly Matityahu, director of presales at Tabit, said the Miami-based Israeli company offers restauranteurs a complete mobile platform for restaurant management through tablets, eliminating the need for static server stations. Tabit’s product line also includes kiosks. The entire Tabot system can replace traditional point-of-sale (POS) technology, serve as a reservation system, manage orders and collect data. The startup was founded by Barry Shaked, who founded Retail Ltd., and Nadav Soloman, the founder of NextFerm. The company works many South Florida-based clients, including the Versace Mansion. The company has raised $35 million, according to Crunchbase. 

Xtend Robotics: Betzalel Gersten, vice president of sales, said Xtend Robotics develops multiple service robots for the restaurant and hospitality industry. The company is based in Orange Park and is seeking to expand in Tampa. The research arm is based in Israel. He explained the challenges with the existing robots as seen in restaurants today – they are very costly and are first- generation robots that do not have artificial intelligence. Xtend Robotics wants to include AI in their robots, which could be used offline and would cost a fraction of the price. The robots have a display screen, cameras and a flexible “torso.” 

Caller Intercept: Andrew Koumi, founder of the restaurant chain Green Market Cafe, created Caller Intercept, a mobile and marketing AI-driven automation solution that helps restaurants book tables and respond to customers as they may not be able to during busy events and peak hours. “I’m sure everyone has called a restaurant to only be disconnected, hear a busy signal or nobody answers,” he said. “In a world of labor shortages, phone calls can be both time-consuming and reduce the staff’s efficiency.” The tech gives businesses different options to respond to consumers, including sending a text response. This gives businesses the ability to retain customers by acknowledging any missed calls and responding to customers with a link to OpenTable, allowing them to book a table. The system also allows messages to be sent to the managers, to collect customer feedback.

Bear Robotics: Mike Teitelbaum, an account manager who oversees Bear Robotics’ Gulf Coast market, said Bear Robotics is the only U.S.-based certified food service robotics company. The California-based startup is known for its service robot called Servi. It’s used for food running, busing tables and hosting. It can also enter patrol mode, where it travels from person to person. In Florida, the robots are used by restaurants, country clubs and hotels. Its clients include Chili’s, Denny’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and the Hyatt and Marriott hotel brands. Sarasota-based Gecko’s Hospitality Group also uses Servi. Bear Robotics is currently developing a robot that can conduct room service, a larger Servi model that can carry twice the amount of food, and a disinfection robot. 

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