Starbucks teams with new restaurant tech platform, led by coffee giant’s former chief digital officer

(BigStock Photo)

Starbucks’ commitment to technology-powered retail solutions took another step forward on Monday as the company announced it is teaming with Brightloom, the restaurant tech company formerly known as Eatsa. And with the deal, the Seattle-based coffee giant is once again working with Adam Brotman, its onetime chief digital officer.

As part of the agreement, Starbucks will share key components of its “digital flywheel” software with Brightloom in return for an equity stake and seat on the San Francisco-based company’s board of directors.

With the launch of a new corporate identity, Brightloom is positioning itself as an integrated digital platform for restaurant brands. According to a news release, the company will offer a complete end-to-end, cloud-based software as a service platform providing digital solutions for and a one-stop-shop for brands.

Brotman spent nine years at Starbucks before leaving in March 2018 to join J.Crew. He joined Brightloom as CEO in April. While at Starbucks, he led the chain’s “mobile order and pay” initiative as well as in-store WiFi efforts.

Adam Brotman, picking up a mobile order during his days at Starbucks. (GeekWire File Photo)

“We are confident that the digital flywheel strategy is the best way for brands to enhance and build their customer relationships,” Brotman said. “The fact that we will now be combining our platform with the leading digital flywheel software in the world, Starbucks, perfectly positions us to offer the best-in-class solution to the industry.”

While it continues to focus on software development of the digital flywheel for its company operated markets, Starbucks will turn to Brightloom for those solutions when it comes to its global license partners. With more than 30,000 Starbucks stores around the world, nearly half are licensed. And in the more than 80 markets where the coffee giant operates, a little less than half currently have the Starbucks mobile app and only eight markets have mobile order and pay capability.

Brightloom will fund the technology development with a $30 million investment led by Tao Capital Partners and Valor Equity Partners along with Starbucks licensees, including Alshaya Group and Alsea. Starbucks previously announced its $100 million investment in Valor’s Siren Ventures Fund in March.

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“We believe any restaurant brand should be able to engage customers digitally using a seamless combination of mobile, omni-channel ordering and loyalty offerings,” Brotman said. “Up until now, only a select few brands could afford, or knew how, to put together a truly seamless mobile ordering, loyalty and topnotch digital platform. Because our digital flywheel offering will be in the form of simple and affordable software as a service, it will truly level the playing field for all.”

Starbucks’ digital flywheel consists of four digital components — rewards, personalization, payment, and ordering — and the company’s digital innovation efforts are repeatedly credited with driving growth.

In a post on LinkedIn on Monday, Brotman introduced the new Brightloom name and strategic direction.

“Cloud and mobile technology have come far enough in the past few years to allow us to build a platform that, when combined with the technology Starbucks has spent years developing and is now licensing to us, will allow any restaurant brand to weave together their own version of a world-class digital flywheel ecosystem,” Brotman said.

He also referenced the power of the flywheel that he used firsthand at Starbucks, and said that to implement it effectively is “no joke.”

“It involves the combination and seamless integration of new technology development, 3rd party integrations, an understanding of loyalty economics, analytics/data science, digital marketing and UX design,” Brotman said. “That can mean millions of dollars, years of time, and needing teams of experienced subject matter experts to build and run all of that.”

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