The Exception Magazine recently connected with Mani Kulasooriya, the CEO of CAKE. His company seamlessly combines food with technology so that restaurants can streamline their entire workflow all the way from the front operations to the back. Restaurant owners might better know the restaurant inside out through CAKE’s technology interface. With a touch of a button, owners have a central place to tackle any challenges or problems that arise for both customers and employees.
Redwood City, CA; Austin, TX
The Exception Interview
How would you describe your company and its product to someone who has never heard of it?
CAKE is a Sysco company offering restaurant-specific technology solutions. CAKE’s platform seamlessly integrates front and back of house restaurant operations, allowing restaurant owners and operators to achieve unparalleled visibility into and control over their point of sale, table and waitlist management, menu pricing, guest preference tracking, reservations systems, inventory and payroll. CAKE’s two flagship products are CAKE POS and CAKE Guest Manager.
The POS system is specifically tailored to the needs of restaurants with easy-to-use functionality, including remote access via desktop or mobile. Guest Manager enables a personalized, streamlined and efficient system for restaurants to interact with customers, including a predictive wait-time algorithm for better accuracy and the ability to track guest preferences, dining history and customer milestones. These solutions can be purchased separately or as an integrated bundle.
Unlike the standalone solutions that exist in today’s marketplace, CAKE’s combination of proprietary hardware and restaurant-specific software offers a simple, easy-to-use platform that solves for challenges in the restaurant business, ultimately leading to increased efficiencies and cost savings.
How did you come up with the idea for your company? How did you validate the concept early on?
At CAKE, we work largely with independent restaurant owners to provide them with technological solutions that keeps them competitive with big chain restaurants. Independent restaurants face much greater barriers to success as they have less capital and are often slow to adopt technology.
Where would you like to see your company in 5 years?
CAKE envisions a better future for restaurant owners/operators and consumers alike. CAKE aims to improve the dining experience by creating an end-to-end flow within the restaurant, so the focus remains on good product and quality service, all while driving maximum efficiencies and profits. CAKE wants to leverage technology to enable completely new ways for restaurants to talk to guests. For example, in near the future, guest profiles will be accessible directly through the POS, customers could order before they sit down to take the edge off of a wait, wait times will be accurately predicted and table turn predictions will be incredibly precise. Payment will be accepted via mobile and the check could be split at the table without waiting for the server to return.
What broader trends are driving interest in the food tech sector?
Line busting: as payment software and hardware become more advanced and efficient, they’ll provide a better service to both the restaurant and the consumer. The check-out process is evolving in a way that’s improving customer service and helping restaurants increase revenues. At the same time, technology is allowing customers to move past the bottleneck of busy restaurant lines faster – leading to happier customers and faster table turns for operators.
Data-based decision-making: restaurant technology is becoming easier to use and integrate, so systems can “talk” to one another. The data revolution will take big steps in the coming year, giving restaurant operators access to information like never before to make crucial decisions for their business.
What excites you personally about working in food tech?
There are only a handful of things that human beings absolutely need and food is one of them. Applying tech to improve an essential item is very gratifying.
Do you believe your city/state supports its food tech startups?
Absolutely. Being at the heart of Silicon Valley has provided numerous resources to help us expand and grow.
What other companies or founders do you follow for inspiration or advice?
Technically a former tech founder – Ben Horowitz. While currently known for founding VC firm A16Z, what I find truly inspirational is how he led Opsware through its ups and downs. Many tech startups fail and some succeed. However, in my opinion, the real super stars are those who figure out how to succeed when all the odds are stacked against them. What Ben was able to do at Opsware is exactly that. He is also a great communicator and mentor.
What words of wisdom would you like to share with the next generation of food tech CEOs?
Good news is that the food industry is huge and for the most part tech backward. This means that opportunities in the space are abound. Eating food is also a daily ritual for everyone. These are exactly the characteristics and environment you should be looking for when trying a identify and industry to disrupt. On the other hand, most aspects of the food industry (and consumption) consist of set behaviors, and changing user behavior is hard. My advice is to find a big problem to solve, there are plenty of them, and then persevere.