The labor productivity tech company has partnered with industry leaders like McDonald's and Outback. 

Restaurant tech company Presto announced Wednesday that it will go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Ventoux CCM Acquisition Corp.

The merger has a pro forma equity value of about $1 billion.

Presto is a company that provides AI-powered touch, vision, and voice technology intended to streamline labor. It’s assisted several restaurants in the U.S., including McDonald’s, Applebee’s, Outback, Chili’s, and Yum! Brands. Brinker International installed Presto in 11 Chili’s locations in Q1 2020, and by the end of the year, the company deployed it across all 1,000-plus locations. So far, Presto has shipped more than 250,000 systems.

The merger involves a private investment in public equity (PIPE) totaling $70 million, including REMUS Capital investors, Sam Altman and Max Altman’s Apollo project, and franchisees of Yum! Brands, Applebee’s, McDonald’s, and Outback.

“Presto is on a mission to transform physical industries with next-gen digital technologies like Touch, Vision and Voice,” Rajat Suri, Presto’s founder and CEO in a statement. “We are excited to invite public market investors to join us on this journey, and support us in our efforts to solve deep-rooted problems for our customers like the shortage of labor, slow guest experiences and lack of data to enable sophisticated decision-making.”

Presto’s tech offerings, which aim to capture a share of the $205 billion restaurant labor productivity market, look to increase staff productivity and the guest experience.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, restaurant employment remains well below pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile 72 percent of operators say recruitment and retention are their top challenges, according to Presto. The problem is only likely to worsen, as 53 percent of existing restaurant workers are actively considering leaving their job.

Presto operates as a solution to some of these challenges, looking to increase guest-to-staff ratios while improving speed and quality of service. The touch solution includes a tablet that can be used as a pay-at-table device, staff handheld, kiosk, or in the drive-thru line. Additionally, Presto’s AI-powered computer vision leads to lower drive-thru wait times and higher order accuracy with just a few cameras. Presto’s suite also includes speech recognition technology that’s more than 94 percent accurate even in noisy environments.

Presto said proceeds from the transaction will be used to accelerate technology development, for market expansion, and to invest in adjacent hospitality markets. 

“With our deep experience in hospitality operations, we see Presto’s advanced technologies addressing and solving the industry’s most pressing needs in today’s challenging labor environment,” said Ed Scheetz, CEO and Chairman of Ventoux in a statement. “Presto’s track record of successfully deploying large scale enterprise-wide solutions sets the company apart from competitors and positions it for accelerated growth at a time when restaurants are increasingly adopting new technologies.”

Presto was founded in 2008 by Rajat Suri when he dropped out of his doctoral program at M.I.T. The first product was a pay-at-table device that quickly expanded to much more. During the pandemic, Presto made all of its solutions free for independent restaurants and partnered with the COVID Tech Connect initiative. This enabled critically ill patients to communicate with loved ones during their last moments.

Following the merger, Suri will continue to lead as CEO alongside CFO Ashish Gupta. The company expects to add a number of industry veterans to its board of directors, including Kim Lopdrup, the former CEO of Red Lobster, Ed Scheetz, CEO and chairman of Ventoux, and Blythe McGarvie, board member of Apple Hospitality REIT, Sonoco, LKQ, and Wawa.

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