Sysco’s Cake: Transforming the Restaurant Industry Through Technology

Corporate Startup of the Week

Running a successful restaurant these days is no easy feat (just ask any restaurant owner). Decisions have to be made about the creating new delivery menus, inventory, training staff on new measures and meeting peak hour demands (just to name a few). 

While other industries (e.g. retail, banking, mobility, etc.) have adopted a variety of technical solutions to help overcome these challenges, the restaurant industry has lagged behind – often still depending on scattered solutions that are not really designed to meet their needs. Recent social distancing measures have only highlighted this gap.   

Sysco is answering this pain point in the restaurant industry with its very own startup.

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Pieces of Cake.

Meet Cake, a restaurant technology platform that seamlessly integrates front and back end restaurant operations. It combines hardware and software to give restaurant owners more control and visibility over their everyday tasks – making restaurants more profitable, easy to manage and ready for the new normal. 

You could say it makes things as easy as – well, cake.

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Foundation.

2011

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Parent company.

Sysco

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Revenue.

$124 Million / year

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Number of employees.

251-500

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Flagship products.

CAKE POS and
CAKE Guest Manage

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Guests seated.

Over 200 Million

About Sysco.

Sysco is a global corporation that specializes in food services. They sell, market, and distribute food products to restaurants, lodging establishments, healthcare facilities, and educational institutions.

With over $60 b in sales generated in 2019, 320+ distribution facilities worldwide, and about 650,000 customer locations, Sysco is one of the biggest food service corporations in the world.

With decades of experience in the food service industry, Sysco has been involved with the restaurant industry for years. It was a natural next step to invest in a startup that enabled them to leverage those partnerships. That’s where Cake enters the picture.

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How does Cake benefit Sysco?

As described by Sysco’s Chief Technology Officer Wayne Shurts:

“The spirit of innovation that CAKE has brought to the table is something that we find extremely encouraging. Sysco’s IT department grew up in a different age. While our experience means that we are able to leverage considerable resources when needed, the relative youth of CAKE is able to cater to the progressive demands of today’s agile, faster-paced market place in a very interesting new way.”

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Here are a few additional benefits:

  • Cake’s consumer data provides valuable insights into consumer trends, food safety, and restaurant productivity. 
  • Cake’s team can share their IT knowledge with Sysco and help create cutting-edge offerings.
  • Many of Cake’s restaurant focused IoT solutions can be integrated with technologies by companies like Amazon, Philips, and Google. This could help Sysco develop an early mover advantage.

The story behind Cake.

It all started in 2007, when a small incubator and consultancy, known as Monvia in Silicon Valley and Latitude655 in Sri Lanka, decided to move forward with a startup called Leapset.

The idea behind Leapset was to fill the gap in technology that so many restaurants were suffering from. Their operating system enabled restaurants to do things like, take orders online, make reservations via mobile, and get status updates via an app.

Both companies have come a long way since then:

As explained by Sysco Labs managing director Shanil Fernando:

“The early days of our company we were doing a lot of consulting work…We had built a reasonable business in consulting. We killed that business to focus on the technology platform CAKE—at that time we were known as Leapset—because we saw a massive opportunity in the massive restaurant industry.”

Today, both Sysco Labs and Cake are subsidiaries of Sysco. According to an article by Daily FT, the partnership began in 2012 when Sysco started investing in Cake. Since then the relationship has gotten much stronger, with Sysco continuing to invest and the Cake team contributing more to Sysco’s business.

What makes Cake successful?

One of the reasons Cake is so successful is that it fills a very real gap in the restaurant industry: A lack of integrated technology solutions. As described by Cake CEO Mani Kulasooriya:

“By focusing on technology built specifically for restaurants and made by people who are fervent about restaurants, CAKE allows owners to concentrate on the passion that brought them to the industry in the first place.”

In essence, their products and services improve the restaurant experience for both customers and restaurateurs. Here are a few other factors:

  • They have a very well rated 24/7 customer service offering.
  • Sysco Labs is backing them with a very skilled team of engineers, enabling them to expand their services continuously.
  • Cake can leverage the funding, corporate assets, know-how, and partnerships of its parent company Sysco to continue to expand.
  • The company offers affordable pricing with a good return on investment rates.  
  • The system is simple and easy to use. 
  • Cake helps independent restaurant owners make data-based decisions, enabling them to compete with larger chains.
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How it works.

Cake’s combination of hardware and restaurant-focused software offers a simple, easy-to-use platform that increases efficiency and saves money. Their products include:

Sysco_Cake_30 Corporate Startup_Image 6 - POS

Point of sales (POS): This product enables users to accept payments, take online orders, gift cards, and take table-side orders. It also enables users to track real-time sales, wages, and staff. The hardware can be a 15 inch, splash resistant touch screen or a smaller order pad for tableside ordering. 

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Guest Manager: This product helps users manage waiting lists, manage their tables, and optimizing their reservation process. It also gives customers a real-time view of table availability. 

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Online ordering system: This product enables users to place orders directly from the restaurant with pickup or contactless delivery options. It helps restaurants increase their online presence, process payments faster, and increase their order accuracy.

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Reporting: This product offers real-time restaurant metrics at glance. It helps users gain valuable insights about their customer’s reservation preferences, top items sold and spending history. It also enables owners to more easily manage their labor costs. 

Additional features enable restaurants to track and manage their inventory, change their menu, create a loyalty program, keep track of accounting, manage tips, split bills, and create custom workflows.  

Software and service fees can be as low as $69 per month with additional sign-in and hardware fees.

What’s next?

Sysco continues to crush it as a global leader in food services. One of their recent projects focuses on a campaign called “Foodservice Doesn’t Brake for Adversity”. The company started the campaign to:

Help small food service companies stay in business.
Encourages Americans to support local restaurants.

They also donated over 21 million meals to people in need due to the pandemic.

Sysco’s plans for innovation also remain in full swing. In an interview, CTO Wayne Shurts talked about plans to leverage the knowledge from Sysco Labs to establish IT Labs in the U.S. based on their model (they already have one in Austin).

As for Cake, they’ve also done their part to innovate during the Covid pandemic. One of their newer products includes Curbside Management, designed to more efficiently manage orders, improve operations, and tame the chaos of curbside pickup.

With Sysco and Sysco Labs to help drive innovation, the sky is the limit for Cake. We can’t wait to see how they continue to grow and what new offerings they come up with!

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Ritza Suazo

Ritza Suazo

Innovation Journalist