Company’s round, which also includes participation from fin-tech investor Bolt by QED, provides restaurants with an all-new way to get to know their diners and incentivize them to return again and again
NEW YORK, Oct. 4, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Today, Blackbird Labs, a hospitality technology company whose platform helps restaurants directly connect and reward their guests, as well as incentivize these customers to return, announced it has raised a $24 Million Series A round. The round was led by a16z, with participation from Amex Ventures and Bolt by QED, as well as the company’s previous seed investors like Union Square Ventures, Shine, Variant, plus leading restaurant groups: Quality Branded, Rustic Canyon Family, Souvla and Brooks Reitz. The new funding will help Blackbird scale operations as it meets an ever growing need from leading restaurants across the country for an all new solution that will help them drive customer loyalty and create new revenue streams.
“We’ve just experienced two decades of declining margins and eroding direct customer relationships in the restaurant industry,” said Ben Leventhal, founder and CEO of Blackbird. “I love this industry, but it is time to face industry economic challenges head-on and make bold changes. Loyalty and connectivity are the next frontier and we’re excited to be leading on this path forward. Adding incredible investors like a16z, Amex Ventures and Bolt by QED will be crucial to us achieving our goals.”
In just a few short months, Blackbird has struck a chord with over 80 leading restaurants in the industry, with 22 restaurants already live. This set includes New York restaurants like: Anton’s, Corner Bar, Crown Shy, Di An Di, Ensenada, Ernesto’s, estela, Fish Cheeks, Freeman’s, Francie, gertrude’s, Hanoi House, Joseph Leonard, Momofuku, Nami Nori, Principe, Overstory, and SAGA; Jon & Vinny’s (LA), Souvla (San Francisco), Daytrip (Oakland), Little Jack’s Tavern (Charleston), The Daily (Charleston), Melfi’s (Charleston), Razza Pizza (Jersey City). All of these restaurants have chosen the platform for its ease of use and ability to help them better understand their customers.
With Blackbird’s advanced platform, restaurants can seamlessly gather insights, including their diners’ likes and dislikes, where they prefer to sit, and how many times they’ve visited the establishment. As today’s dining landscape becomes increasingly fragmented, with little direct connectivity between guests and restaurants, Blackbird’s technology helps restaurants get to really know their patrons. Operators can consistently surprise and delight their customers, while giving them the special feeling that they are very important and appreciated regulars, sparking increased and ongoing loyalty to the restaurant.
“We are excited about adding Blackbird into our restaurants,” said Jon Shook of Jon & Vinny’s. “This impressive technology will actively help us serve and engage our great customers on an even deeper level, and, in turn, allow them to further invest in their relationships with our restaurants. It’s a journey we’re thrilled to take together.”
For diners, Blackbird is also incredibly easy to use. When customers arrive at a restaurant, they simply tap their phone on a Blackbird NFC reader and enter their phone number to create their membership. From there they start leveling up their regular status with each subsequent tap-in, thus unlocking benefits and insider perks like surprise off menu items and even a direct SMS concierge. They also earn $FLY, Blackbird’s non-transferable native token, which opens up a world of possibility. Diners can use their $FLY to power up for specific items they might want or they can also use them for membership rewards with a specific restaurant. Blackbird users also don’t need to have a pre-existing web3 wallet. The company works with Privy to provide embedded wallets, so users who simply sign in with their phone number get a self-custodial wallet for use. Users are able to manage their memberships, view $FLY balance, monitor recent activity and message restaurants all through the Blackbird app.
“Web3 enables a powerful, new way for restaurants and guests to connect, making each dining experience unique and more meaningful,” said Arianna Simpson, General Partner at a16z crypto. “Blackbird’s platform is easy, fun, and delightful to use. With just a few taps, diners can unlock new loyalty programs that only web3 technology can provide. We believe the first wave of restaurants and experiences powered by Blackbird are only the beginning of what’s possible. Given his expertise building Eater and Resy, Ben Leventhal is the perfect entrepreneur to lead Blackbird to that future, and we’re thrilled to partner with him and his team as they take the hospitality industry to new levels.”
With its new funding, Blackbird also has plans to rapidly expand its offering into new markets, as it continues to roll out new features like: $FLY Redemption, which empowers consumers to use their accumulated $FLY points to “power up” and redeem perks either in the moment or in a future planned visit at participating Blackbird restaurants. The company will also be introducing an all-new referral program, giving diners the ability to text their friend a link to become members at a specific restaurant, where they will gain access to an entirely new and exclusive slate of offerings. Diners will also be able to opt into global data sharing, where restaurants will gain visibility into their full dining history and any associated insights, in exchange for providing more $FLY on regular dining activity like tap-ins.
“Blackbird offers a compelling new platform with the potential to evolve how restaurants deliver on loyalty and supercharge the insights they need to thrive,” said Matt Sueoka, Global Head of Amex Ventures. “We are thrilled to back Blackbird as they explore how to leverage web3 technology to positively transform the dining experience for consumers and the restaurant industry.”
For more information on Blackbird, please visit https://www.blackbird.xyz/.
About Blackbird Labs
Blackbird is a loyalty and membership company, focused on leveraging the power of direct connectivity between restaurants and their guests. Blackbird offers a fully customizable loyalty programming platform for restaurants and a consumer app designed to make every guest feel like a bonafide VIP no matter where they dine.
Blackbird was founded in 2022 by Ben Leventhal, co-founder of Eater and Resy, two companies that have transformed the restaurant industry (Eater was acquired by Vox in 2013; Resy by American Express in 2019). Blackbird’s investors and partners include a16z, Union Square Ventures, Amex Ventures, Shine Capital, Variant Fund, Multicoin Capital, IAC, Vayner Fund, Circle Ventures, Mischief, and Tribute Labs plus leading restaurant groups: Quality Branded, Rustic Canyon Family, Souvla and Brooks Reitz.
The Blackbird app acts as a user’s wallet where they can manage their memberships, view $FLY balance, monitor recent activity and message restaurants in one place. The app is free and available for download on iOS.