I used to be a barback at a restaurant. At the end of the night, we would have to place the orders from vendors for things like limes, lemons, tomato juice and celery. One of the chefs would come around with a scrap of paper and we’d scribble down what we needed and in what quantities. This order would then get called in by phone to the respective vendors late at night, and hopefully the right supplies would show up the next day.
This clumsy, old-fashioned process happens every night in millions of restaurants across the country. It’s a frustrating, but entrenched, part of the restaurant industry.
BlueCart, a D.C.-based startup, thinks there must be a better way and has set out to bring vendor ordering into the 21st century.
Launched in 2014, after cofounders Jagmohan Bansal and Konstantin Zvereff met at Georgetown, BlueCart uses web and mobile apps to digitally connect restaurants and their vendors. By processing orders online, both restaurants and vendors can save time, operate more efficiently and keep better track of inventory. And by using analytics, both parties can better anticipate their resupply needs.
In just two years, BlueCart has amassed over 4,000 users across the United States. In D.C., the platform boasts high profile names like Cava Mezze and the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, the local powerhouse behind restaurants like Bluejacket Brewery, Iron Gate, GBD, Churchkey, The Partisan and Red Apron Butchery.
“We used to deal with paper receipts. It was a mess,” says Lena Laskaris, Director of Operations at Red Apron Butchery. “Now, with BlueCart, I save at least 6 hours per week.”
BlueCart’s app and platform is free for both the restaurants and vendors, and is supported through ad revenue. Advertisers include the likes of Square, which hopes to market to restaurants, and food suppliers looking to gain new customers. BlueCart is also working on building out premium features. The company declined to disclose revenue numbers to DC Inno, but did confirm that they are revenue positive. In July, BlueCart raised a $4 million Series A round from BlueRun Ventures and Columbia Partners.
Currently the company has a staff of 20, spread between the D.C. headquarters and offices in New York and San Francisco. The bulk of the staff is focused on sales and community outreach, with a small cadre of engineers working on the site and app.
The sales and community teams are focused heavily on engaging vendors. While restaurants are often eager to adopt the BlueCart platform, many vendors tend to be more old school, and it can be a challenge to get them to adapt to a new way of doing business. And getting giant vendors to start using the platform will be a slow process but BlueCart is making progress. Currently, Sysco, the Texas-based Fortune 500 company, and world’s largest food distributor, will take orders from the platform but is not yet on it themselves.
In a move geared towards engaging the vendor side, BlueCart launched an app this week specifically for sales reps so that they can track and place multiple orders while on the road. Being able to access order information while not having to carry a laptop or binder of order forms from restaurant to restaurant is aimed to make sales reps’ lives easier, and entice even more users to the BlueCart platform.
In addition to continuing to grow its business in 2016, BlueCart also hopes to establish itself as a leader in the growing food technology industry. In March, the company will be at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin hosting a meet up focused on food and agtech. By overhauling the ordering process, BlueCart believes it can not only help a restaurant’s bottom line and efficiency, but also reduce food waste and ultimately strengthen the restaurant supply chain.