iCHEF, a mobile restaurant point of sale (POS) provider based in Taiwan, raised US$5 million (NT$150 million) last week in a funding round led by JAFCO Taiwan through a private equity fund called JAFCO Taiwan I Venture Capital. China Development Financial and Darwin Venture also participated in the round. iCHEF said it is planning an initial public offering (IPO).
In response to the slight drop in funding compared to 2016 when it garnered US$5.6 million (NT$162 million) in a Series A funding round led by AppWork, Ken Cheng, co-founder of iCHEF, explained: "iCHEF's operation has become self-sufficient. We saw a growth opportunity, and we want to act upon it. The funding goal (US$5 million) is set after careful calculation."
iCHEF's app consolidates all the major functions required for operating a restaurant such as table-management, orders and takeaways, promotions, and discounts, and the option of accepting various payment methods. When an order is made, it simultaneously goes to the printers of the corresponding workstations in a kitchen. The app also creates detailed reports about the performance of restaurants' promotions and ordering trends. All data is automatically backed up to the cloud.
iCHEF intends to use the fund to expand its research and development team and create more strategic partnerships with international platforms. Additionally, the company aims to focus on supporting small to middle-sized restaurants and strengthen food ordering websites and systems, customer service, the overall efficiency, and the function of customer relationship management.
Commenting on their investment, VC firm JAFCO Asia said, "We hope our investment can support iCHEF to continue improving its user experience. We also hope to get them ready for potential mergers and acquisitions in the future and help them gain a strong foothold in the food and beverages tech industry."
In 2019, iCHEF partnered with Facebook to integrate Facebook's reward points collection model into its existing POS system. Customers do not need to download new apps or bring paper loyalty cards everywhere to collect restaurants' dining points. They can give the cashier their phone number or scan the QR code on their receipts to save points on Facebook. For small restaurants, waiters can save time from dealing with customers on explaining how reward points work and focus on their main service, while owners can spend less time analyzing their reward points strategy.
With the rise of takeaway deliveries, the company also collaborated with UberEats, Lalamove, and Line to connect these food delivery platforms to the iCHEF app. Instead of going to every food delivery app to update the menu or cancel an order, restaurant managers can go to the iCHEF app to review all menu items and manage all customers' orders from the dine-in restaurant and external platforms at once.
"From day one, iCHEF aims to grow with small local restaurants. We hope restaurant owners can put their time and energy on their food, and we take care of administrative tasks with our technology," Cheng said.
Looking forward, Cheng and iCHEF's co-founder Benjamin Wu are eyeing for an IPO.
"I want to change the talent scene in Taiwan. The majority of outstanding local SaaS talents leave Taiwan to boost their career. I hope iCHEF can ultimately change this and retain the top talents by offering them a space to thrive," said Benjamin Wu, co-founder of iCHEF.
Meanwhile, Cheng hopes that iCHEF can become a brand people yearn for and a company that reminds people of "anything is possible."
iCHEF, founded in 2012, currently has more than 8,000 restaurants across Asia, particularly in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore. In 2019, it had generated more than NT$2 billion in revenue.