Start-Ups Mixing Food and Technology Vie for an Edge

“I’m asking restaurants to change their entire way of serving customers” Rajat Suri

Rajat Suri was excelling at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he dropped out and became a waiter — not the typical direct path to fame and fortune in the technology industry. But then Mr. Suri took his restaurant and technology expertise to Palo Alto, raised three rounds of venture capital, including $4 million from the founders of Groupon, and took a seat at the increasingly crowded table of entrepreneurs mixing technology with food.

Mr. Suri used his time as a waiter to study restaurant inefficiencies and to devise technological solutions. The result: his company, E la Carte, and an iPad-like tablet called Presto that allows diners to order and pay at their tables without server interaction and play games while they wait.

E la Carte is one of several similar start-ups in Silicon Valley. There are dozens of Bay Area entrepreneurs hoping to find success at the intersection of eating and technology, and there are dozens of venture capital companies providing them with millions of dollars in early-stage investments.

With so many food-tech start-ups in the area, some observers, including the entrepreneurs themselves, wonder how the companies can stand out and earn money. Some also ask if this lofty food-venture soufflé is in danger of collapsing.  Read More



Posted on December 13, 2011 and filed under Best Practices.