‘Anything besides Yelp.’ Tom Colicchio is investing in a startup to give restaurants an app alternative

February 22, 2022, 4:00 PM UTC

Tom Colicchio, a well-known chef who also cohosts the popular cooking challenge show Top Chef, has choice words for Yelp.

“Anything besides Yelp,” Colicchio said.

Restaurateurs aren’t fans of letting anyone and everyone write online reviews—screeds, in some cases—about their meals. Yes, online reviews can be helpful in some cases, but they can also be woefully uninformed or fraudulent.

“I mean, when you have restaurants that haven’t opened yet getting reviewed, you know something is wrong,” Colicchio said.

As a restaurant owner and investor, Colicchio has long been interested in finding alternatives to Yelp and other services to collect feedback from diners. Before the internet era, it involved asking customers to fill out paper comment cards (a practice that many restaurants still follow).

“The old days of having a maître d’ at your door, going to tables and getting feedback from everyone—those days are gone,” Colicchio said.

He’s among several investors in restaurant software startup Tattle, which said Tuesday it had raised $5.5 million in a Series A round led by Contour Venture Partners. 

Tattle’s software lets restaurants send online surveys to their customers to learn about what they liked and didn’t like about their meals, and the quality of the service they received. Restaurant managers can then tap the service for analysis of the feedback to uncover trends, such as a pizza chain learning that customers are upset about the bad service during the afternoons at a particular location.    

Tattle plans to use its funding to expand its small artificial intelligence and machine-learning team, said Tattle CEO Alex Beltrani. The goal is to offer restaurateurs machine-learning tools that would let them forecast sales based on customer feedback. The hope is that Tattle can present the “complicated models” it is developing in a simple format on its user dashboard so that restaurant managers “don’t feel intimidated by some of the tech,” Beltrani said.

Compared with other industries, restaurants have been slow to adopt data analytics and cutting-edge software. Part of the problem is that they have lacked technology to collect data on their business. Colicchio believes Tattle is the answer.

“Nothing, you get no data along with Yelp,” Colicchio said about the limits of restaurants scouring Yelp reviews for insights. “You get some stars.”

Colicchio said he and his investment team are scouting for other startups that specialize in providing data analytics for restaurants. He’s already an investor in ResQ, a startup specializing in software that helps managers monitor their kitchen equipment for repairs. 

He hopes that the new breed of restaurant tools takes the pressure off managers and workers so they can do what they do best. 

“You’re the chef—you’re good at running the kitchen,” Colicchio said. “You’re not good at everything.”

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