Jul 22, 2019

Eatsa partners with Starbucks, rebrands as Brightloom

Brightloom's smart shelf technology tells customers where to pick up their orders.

Brightloom's smart shelf technology tells customers where to pick up their orders. Photo: Brightloom

Eatsa is taking the final step away from its roots as a restaurant chain, adopting the new name Brightloom and striking a deal with Starbucks to offer the coffee giant's technology for mobile ordering and payment to other restaurants.

Why it matters: The company sees far more opportunity in helping existing restaurants digitize than in operating its own eateries.

As a restaurant, Eatsa was known for allowing urban lunchgoers to order a quinoa bowl via an app and pick it up ready-made from one of its kiosk-filled locations. However, the company has closed the last of those locations and is remaking itself as a provider of technology services.

  • Brightloom plans to combine technology licensed from Starbucks with its own restaurant-modernization products, like its kiosks and smart shelves.
  • Starbucks, meanwhile, will get an undisclosed equity stake in Brightloom and a seat on its board of directors.

The deal was in the works in April, when former Starbucks chief digital officer Adam Brotman took over as Eatsa's CEO, a move first reported by Axios.

Under the arrangement with Starbucks, Brightloom:

  • will have a license to use the underlying technology that powers Starbucks mobile ordering, personalization, payment and loyalty program.
  • is getting a $30 million investment from some of the international licensees of the Starbucks brand, along with current Eatsa investors.
  • will also have those same licensees as key customers. Most international licensees today don't have the same technology as Starbucks has for its company-operated locations.

For Starbucks, the deal offers a way to make some money off its technology without having to support other restaurants using it.

  • While Brightloom has long-term ambitions to deliver the technology to a broad range of customers, for now a lot of its focus will be on equipping Starbucks' international licensees with the technology, something that benefits the brand directly.

What they're saying: "We really are excited about the opportunity to change an industry here," Brotman said in a phone interview Monday.

  • While most restaurants know they need the kinds of capabilities that Starbucks offers its customers, few had the resources or know-how to do so.
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