Omnivore, a Clearwater-based tech company with thousands of clients in the restaurant industry, saw explosive growth during the Covid-19 pandemic but remains hungry for more. Some 24,000 restaurants throughout the United States, Europe and Australia use its software, and that number should top 25,000 by the end of the year. That’s according to Dan Singer, who was recently made the company’s permanent CEO after serving in an interim capacity since last summer, when Mike Wior, who co-founded Omnivore, stepped down.
In addition to Singer’s promotion, and in a sign that it’s shifting into a new phase of growth and expansion, the company also hired a chief revenue officer, Shane Whitlatch.
Singer, a Tampa native, knows his way around high-growth companies. Prior to joining Omnivore in 2019, he was vice president of finance at FairWarning, a Tampa-based data privacy and security firm that, at the time, also employed Whitlatch. There, he worked with the executive leadership team to prepare the company for a $60 million growth equity investment from Mainsail Partners in June 2018.
Omnivore’s multifaceted software-as-a-service platform can play several roles in restaurant operations. Its application programming interface (API) connects functions and technologies such as contactless ordering, loyalty programs and pay-at-the-table devices to the restaurant’s central point-of-sale (POS) system. In a breakthrough for Omnivore, Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands — the parent company of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and other major restaurant chains — adopted the API in 2015.
The other half of the equation for Omnivore is its Menu Management System (MMS), which Singer said has exploded in popularity during the pandemic. MMS acts as a streamlined intermediary between restaurants and third-party delivery services such as UberEats, Postmates and DoorDash. It allows restaurants to make changes to their menus across all of those platforms with a single update instead of going to each one individually with alterations. It also funnels third-party delivery orders directly into the restaurant’s POS system so staff members don’t have to have a tablet dedicated to each delivery service.
“We kind of had this period where we moved along five years or so in technology in about two months when the pandemic hit,” Singer said. “A lot of restaurant operators used to look at their off-premise business, in terms of both pickup and delivery, as kind of a small, ancillary source of revenue. And just overnight, that, for a short period of time, became their only source of revenue, and for a long period of time afterward stayed as their main source of revenue, even when dining rooms were allowed to reopen at limited capacity. The acceleration of the technology curve was very rapid.”
Savvy investors didn’t foresee the pandemic, but they foresaw the utility of Omnivore’s technology. In 2018, the company completed a Series A round in which it raised $13 million from the likes of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, Performance Food Group and The Coca-Cola Co.
“They understand that the world is going digital and that the way that you interact with your customers, going forward, is going to be in a digital-first manner,” Singer said. “That’s how they were able to get behind Omnivore’s value proposition.”
Today, Omnivore’s MMS has processed nearly 10 million delivery orders valued at $350 million. At over 99 percent, MMS has one of the highest direct-injection success rates in the industry, which means restaurants have fewer failed orders while reducing labor costs.
However, perhaps the more notable feature of MMS is its ability to allow existing restaurants to create “virtual restaurants” that allow them to try out new concepts without a big investment in branding and physical space. For example, Bloomin’ Brands, during the pandemic, launched a concept called Tender Shack, with food available only via third-party delivery services.
“It’s run out of the kitchens of Carrabba’s and Outback, using excess kitchen capacity,” Singer said. “And so restaurants are able to spin up these concepts, test them quickly and roll them out quickly if they’re successful. If for some reason they weren’t successful, they’d be able to pivot the concept very quickly and try something else. That’s something we’ve seen really take off during the Covid-19 pandemic and something we absolutely expect to continue as these customers, as these brands, start to build new brand loyalty through their virtual kitchens and virtual concepts.”