Web3 Restaurant Platform Blackbird Raises $24M in Funding

Today, Ben Leventhal’s Web3 restaurant platform Blackbird announced it had raised $24 million in a Series A funding round. Crypto investment firm a16z led the round, which also saw participation from Amex Ventures, Bolt by QED, and leading restaurant groups Quality Branded, Rustic Canyon Family, and Brooks Reitz.

With the funding, Blackbird plans to expand rapidly into new markets and roll out new features, such as giving users the ability to “power-up” and earn more of the platform’s native token FLY. In addition, the company will allow customers to activate global data sharing, which will permit all restaurants using the platform to access the patron’s data. In turn, customers will receive special perks when dining in.

Blackbird powers a restaurant loyalty rewards program that uses Web3 technology. Customers can opt into the program when eating at a participating restaurant by connecting their app to a special in-restaurant device. Then, the customer’s data, such as table selection, birthdate, and food allergies, are stored on the blockchain. Restaurants can then use this data to give the customers VIP treatment the next time they dine in.

The key characteristic that allows the platform to function is a cryptocurrency called FLY, which patrons accumulate the more they eat at participating restaurants. Customers with a certain FLY balance can purchase off-menu items for instance, receive free appetizers, and enjoy other perks. Blackbird plans to add a referral program for its users, so that they can receive new and select offerings.

Ben Leventhal, an entrepreneur in the restaurant industry who founded the publication Eater and restaurant reservation platform Resy, is the mind behind Blackbird. He said he received the idea for the new Web3 company during the pandemic when he saw the ingenuity of restaurants trying to stay alive during the lockdowns.

In his view, the restaurant industry faces a significant challenge in that the relationship between patrons and restaurants has deteriorated in recent years. Blackbird may end up changing that, and it has proven to be popular thus far. It has signed up over 80 restaurants already, with 22 live on the app. The company raised $11 million in seed funding 12 months ago, as Rarity Sniper detailed.

Restaurants Leverage Web3 Technology

Although it may seem odd that restaurants, with their in-person component, might leverage Web3 technology, some have been doing so over the past two years. From token-gated restaurant memberships to NFT-licensed eateries, some budding entrepreneurs have delved into Web3 tech to better their establishments. Here are three such stories.

First, about a year ago, the SHŌ Group announced it was launching the first NFT-backed restaurant in the Bay Area of California. Called SHŌ, the restaurant will use non-fungible tokens to create three membership tiers, each coming with its own perks. In addition, all token holders will receive access to a private lounge at the rooftop of the building where the restaurant is located.

Next, two years ago, a Bored Ape-themed restaurant opened in California. Called “Bored & Hungry,” this establishment came from the mind of entrepreneur Andy Nguyen, who spent over $260,000 for the Ape he used in the branding. In addition to the eats, the restaurant was said to feature special NFT-related easter eggs throughout to provide a novel dining experience.

Lastly, two years ago, entrepreneur Gary Vaynerhuk released a set of NFTs related to a restaurant called “Flyfish Club.” Like with SHŌ, the Flyfish Club NFTs will correspond to membership tiers, granting access to special parts of the restaurant. In addition, token holders will be able to partake in food not available to regular patrons.

As these stories show, even restaurants are using Web3 technology to innovate. Time will tell if they are successful, but there’s no doubt that the technology can enhance industries that are primarily in-person and have a limited digital presence.