Presto CEO Steps Down After 15 Years

restaurant tech

Restaurant automation firm Presto is seeking a new chief executive.

The company announced Monday (March 27) that founder and CEO Rajat Suri had resigned after 15 years helming the firm. Replacing him in the interim is Krishna Gupta, Presto’s chairman and the company’s first investor.

“Mr. Suri is a visionary,” Gupta said in a news release, noting that Suri had founded Presto “with a mission to transform the way cutting-edge technologies can enhance physical, customer-facing experiences.”

Presto’s stock, which is down 81% since the company went public in September of last year, fell another 12% Monday following the news of Suri’s departure.

Based in San Carlos, Calif., Presto provides artificial intelligence (AI) powered voice assistants and other technologies for restaurant drive-thrus at brands that include McDonald’s, KFC and Chili’s.

“Our counterparts for our technology, the people who use our technology, are large restaurant brands doing billions of dollars in revenue,” Suri told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster in an interview ahead of the company’s IPO last year.

“When they pick a provider for critical technologies, they like to pick companies that have been through some rigor on their financials and their business and not a fly-by-night startup.”

He argued that the digital shift had already happened for restaurants, and that automation was the next frontier.

“What is a relatively new trend is [physical industries like restaurants are] actually not just digitizing, but they’re also automating,” said Suri.

Recent research by PYMNTS finds many restaurants embracing automation, with 75% of eateries using it in at least three areas of operations. However, there are still places where restaurants can innovate further, particularly in terms of back-office tasks.

One estimate found that restaurant operators are spending 20 hours per week on employee-connected administrative tasks that could easily be handled with software.

“Indeed, 90% of restaurant owners view increased automation of back-of-house operations as a way to free up time to focus on more important tasks,” PYMNTS wrote recently.

“Solutions that could deliver these improvements run the gamut from labor management software to inventory management tools to better internal communication methods.”

Cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) systems are among the automated tools restaurants can use to streamline their operations, as these systems can help restaurants create a centralized platform for all their ordering and payment methods.

This reduces user errors, saves time and can drive revenue. One survey of restaurants using these POS systems found that 70% had seen their customer frequency and traffic increased due to the connection between online and mobile ordering and POS systems.