Jul 22, 2019

Eatsa partners with Starbucks, rebrands as Brightloom

Ina Fried, author of Login

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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