With travel slowly recovering in the midst of the pandemic, there is tremendous pent-up demand and consumers are looking for discerning experiences. The hospitality industry has been ravaged by lockdowns and restrictions, leaving operators to maximize any and all revenue channels now and moving forward. In-room dining is one of the opportunities that’s poised for optimization. Butler Hospitality is the technology-driven turn-key solution that transforms the hotel dining experience through cloud kitchens for hotels. Butler Hospitality manages the operation of kitchens inside hotels, controlling everything from menu design to staffing, and prepares high-quality meals that are delivered by full-time, uniformed “Butlers” to guests at the property and to nearby hotels within 30 minutes. The meals are charged to the guest’s hotel folio and the hotel can completely offload the responsibility of hotel food and beverage operations. Properties that previously did not offer in-room dining can now seamlessly offer the option to elevate the guest experience. Butler currently operates in six markets across the country with plans to double its presence with this funding.
AlleyWatch caught up with CEO and Founder Tim Gjonbalic to learn more about how his experience as a restaurant operator inspired the business, Butler’s service and the pain points that it addresses, the company’s strategic plans, latest round of funding, which brings the total funding raised to $50M, and much, much more.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Maywic Select Investments, Platform Ventures, and Mousse Partners, Ltd.
Tell us about the product or service that Butler Hospitality offers
Butler Hospitality is on a mission to create modern technology for timeless hospitality. The company’s platform of products + solutions are designed to foster community and connect travelers with the cities around them. Butler takes over underutilized hotel kitchens and aggregates multiple hotel food and beverage programs to one centralized kitchen. Utilizing guest data across multiple brands, Butler is opening new profit channels for its partners while curating a more personalized guest journey.
What inspired the start of Butler Hospitality?
I grew up working in my family’s busy restaurant, and later I operated restaurants inside of Manhattan hotels. The challenges and intricacies of hospitality and lodging were fully laid out before me. I knew that the hotel industry required significant change – an innovative and easier way forward. We created Butler to fundamentally change the industry. We’re taking a vertically integrated approach to upgrade all stakeholders – from hotel owners and management companies to their guests. We’re minimizing, or eliminating, the heavy lifting. We built Butler to deliver premium hospitality on-demand and at scale.
How is Butler Hospitality different?
Butler is the only hospitality technology company that vertically integrates with property systems to deliver directly to the hotel guest’s door and bills directly to the room. From a broader lens – we’re building ecosystems that connect every stakeholder, as well as the local city – from designing and curating menus to production and delivery.
What market does Butler Hospitality target and how big is it?
We’re reaching the hospitality asset class – starting with the $100 billion hotel food and beverage market – in dense cities across the United States. With this investment, Butler will more than double our presence to 12 markets across the US, with plans to service nearly 250,000 rooms. Boston, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh will soon be able to join the network of hotel and travel services that have proven successful in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. With the addition of these markets, Butler is unlocking access to over one million keys nationally.
What’s your business model?
By taking over underutilized hotel kitchens and delivering to nearby hotels, Butler is able to foster powerful ecosystems and optimize traditional F&B operations. This network of shared resources benefits all providers and users alike. Butler delivers an all-encompassing guest experience through weightless, digital integration with hotels. Part of the company’s success can be attributed to our unique transformation of F&B operations – typically a loss-leader or missing amenity for hotels – into robust profit channels for our partners.
What are your post-COVID office plans??
A full recovery is top of mind because we want to usher in this re-opening. As we scale, we are building our team culture. We’re mindful of doing this safely – not only keeping employees safe but all stakeholders – guests and partners, every extension of Butler.
What was the funding process like?
There is a new energy surrounding vertically integrated startups across different industries. We’ve been able to gain momentum from that attention, and from our unique position in hospitality technology.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Definitely travel recovery. And, underwriting macro rebound.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
I believe our investors were drawn to our unique, vertically integrated model, our brand partnerships with leading hotels, and the way we’re pioneering a new normal in hospitality that really supports the pace and outlook of the industry’s recovery. These key factors are further supported by our growth: We’re scaling our team, our national market reach, and our products and services.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
- Market expansion. We’re currently in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Miami, D.C., Denver and San Francisco and by year end we’ll add Boston, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
- With these markets we will serve over 250,000 hotel keys nationwide and have access to over a million keys. That’s critical for our growth strategy.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
A quick answer would be: Focus on unit economics.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Butler is an interesting model because we’re vertically integrated with the hospitality industry – and you don’t see that often. It’s achievable through technology, strategic partnerships and streamlined operations. Right now, as we’re scaling, our efforts are largely B2B and B2B2C. As we leverage incoming data, we’re continuing to add value for our partners and our guests with customized, strategic products and services.
What’s your favorite outdoor dining restaurant in NYC?
Allora Ristorante. It’s a rooftop sky lounge with really delicious old-school New York Italian specialties. And, full disclosure: It’s my family’s restaurant.