Milwaukee-based SpotHopper may have turned a few heads earlier this month when the company announced it had completed a $14 million Series A funding round, but the company has seen success since it first launched in 2015.
Aleksandar Ivanovic, who serves as chief executive officer, co-founded SpotHopper back in 2015 with his son Niko, who serves as president and chief operating officer.
“We wanted to create an app that would be better than Yelp. In other words, we wanted it to be an app that could recommend things to people based on their personal preferences, unlike Yelp which kind of recommends the same thing for everybody,” Ivanovic said.
Through this venture, Ivanovic explained the duo soon discovered that restaurants were behind when it came to marketing and technology. He said he isn’t quite sure why so many restaurants lacked a strong online presence but guessed that because smaller establishments usually don’t have the staffing and funding to back up marketing initiatives, they never learned how much technology could help.
“I was kind of shocked (by) how few tools they had, so then we decided let’s build a marketing platform for restaurants to make it easy for them to do everything they have to do online,” Ivanovic said.
When SpotHopper first launched in 2015, in between 50-100 restaurants were using the platform. Back then, the main offering of SpotHopper was social media automation. The platform also helped make sure restaurants had their menus on their social media pages.
Ivanovic said that the startup saw very rapid growth. From 2018 up until the COVID-19 shutdown, they were doubling their revenue each year. Then, when the height of the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, SpotHopper was severely affected and made no sales.
“That’s because basically everything was shut down and the restaurants at that time were not even open for delivery or pickup. They were all really scared, I think, about their future,” Ivanovic said.
He added that once everything shut down, it helped restaurant owners realize they can’t neglect their online presence and actually reinforced how important it is.
“Having great online tools, being able to be nimble, being able to easily communicate to all of their customers, being able to easily favor pick-ups/delivery versus outdoor/indoor (dining) and being able to quickly adjust their marketing for whatever the pandemic throws at them… it became a no-brainer for them to buy a platform like SpotHopper,” Ivanovic said.
Once they do purchase SpotHopper, customers have provided feedback saying they particularly enjoy the caliber of the photographers, videographers and designers used, and how the platform’s technology can save them time, he said. They no longer have to spend time scheduling emails and social media posts every day. Instead, they spend a few minutes each month approving the communications the SpotHopper platform generates.
That’s not the only way SpotHopper is helping restaurants tackle modern problems. With the labor shortage continually being one of the biggest issues in the country, the platform is helping address staffing shortages by collecting and processing applications. QR codes can be printed off and placed in restaurants so guests can scan them and automatically apply. Business owners then get an email anytime they receive an application. SpotHopper is also helping increase foot traffic in establishments through their marketing efforts so employees are making enough money and don’t have to look elsewhere for work. Data from SpotHopper shows that restaurants using the platform can seek anywhere in between $5,000 and $20,000 a month in extra revenue.
With their first round of funding complete, Ivanovic said next steps include continuing to make the SpotHopper platform easier to use and to continue to grow the number of restaurants they help. Ivanovic said right now, SpotHopper is in about 35 cities but there are several markets they would like to break into.
Holiday flash sale! Subscribe to BizTimes and save nearly 40%!
Limited time offer. New subscribers only.