Getting a handle on food costs in an independent restaurant is a constant challenge for owners, and there is a long list of startups, such as MarginEdge, OneOrder, TouchBistro, PreciTaste, ConverseNow, Fudo, Owner.com, that have stepped up with their solutions.
Shut upCo-founder Dante DiCicco tackles this problem, but from a unique point of view: as a restaurateur. He had watched his parents’ Italian restaurant locations dwindle during the economic downturn in 2007-2008 and now saw the global pandemic taking a similar toll on restaurants.
In opening a new location for his family’s restaurant and sourcing all the food suppliers, it dawned on DiCicco that this process needed technology.
Fortunately, he knew about that. He was an executive at Snap and led the company’s international sales growth. He leveraged that knowledge and teamed up with Erek Benz, co-founder of real estate marketplace CREXi, to develop Zitti to put independent restaurants on par, technologically speaking, with major chains.
The result is a payment software platform that streamlines the transaction between restaurants and food suppliers through payment, price comparison and supplier discovery tools.
“Food price optimization is the future of the restaurant business,” he told TechCrunch. “Much of the emerging technology is focused on ordering and inventory management, but what is sorely lacking is the actual business intelligence to help restaurants make smarter purchasing decisions. That is a big part of our mission.”
Zitti launched in March 2022 after raising $4 million in pre-seed funds by the end of 2021. DiCicco’s restaurant and his family’s restaurants were the first beta customers.
In the past two months, the company started charging fees for its product — $150 per month, per restaurant location — and is seeing “really good sales numbers as we ramp up our sales efforts,” DiCicco said.
“Our goal of saving money on their food costs is more than that amount, and ideally many times over, so it’s been incredibly well received,” he added. “We’ve already had a significant number of conversions from our pilot group to become customers.”
The company is now back with $3.5 million in a seed round co-led by Oceans Ventures and Serena Ventures, with Crossbeam, the pre-seed investor, also participating. In total, the company has raised $7.5 million since DiCicco and Benz began working on the company in 2019.
The funding will be used for technology development, with artificial intelligence and additional automation soon to be added to the platform. One of DiCicco’s goals is to be able to show price changes in real time and then use AI to predict how a given product will be priced in the coming year.
Meanwhile, Zitti is currently targeting the Southern California and Chicago markets and sees Austin as an emerging market as well, DiCicco said.
“The company’s next steps are to expand into new markets, but we are taking a city-by-city approach,” he added. “That’s going to be important because we’re building density on both the restaurant side and the supplier side, so we can have more market information and therefore more pricing information.”