Tab Commerce co-founder and CEO Ty Wilson grew up in the restaurant business—his parents met at one, spent their entire lives working at them, and now own eight Irish pubs in the Hamilton area.
For his part, Wilson began his career in finance and investing with BMO Capital Markets. But during the early days of the pandemic, he returned to his parents’ house where he sat alongside his mother and father as they tried to keep their restaurants alive amid COVID-19 shutdowns.
“They’re operating in the dark a lot of times.”
-Ty Wilson, Tab Commerce
During this time, Wilson told BetaKit in an interview, he quickly “realized how broken the restaurant back office was” and saw an opportunity to help address this issue. He launched Tab Commerce to help his parents and other restaurant owners like them manage, analyze, and reduce their costs with its automated invoice and expense management platform.
As the pandemic wanes, and eateries contend with a new concern in high inflation, Toronto-based Tab Commerce has closed $1 million USD in pre-seed funding to help restaurants operate more efficiently and cost-effectively.
The round, which closed a few weeks ago comes from United States-based Matchstick Ventures, was raised via a simple agreement for future equity (SAFE). It brings Tab Commerce’s total funding to $1.25 million USD, including $250,000 from Mucker Capital and undisclosed angel investors from early 2022.
According to Wilson, many restaurants manage expenses in a “super manual, inefficient way,” spending hours at a desk compiling and organizing disparate PDFs and paper invoices. Given this, those restaurants often have poor visibility into their expenses or the prices they pay for certain goods and services. “They’re operating in the dark a lot of times,” said Wilson.
In 2021, as restaurants reeled from pandemic shutdowns and price changes, Wilson decided to dive in and address this problem, teaming up with Tab Commerce co-founder and CTO Sam Unterman, an alumnus of Canadian tech startups like Boast.AI, Planswell, and Finaeo.
Tab Commerce, previously known as SquareMarket, aims to simplify expense management for restaurants. The startup’s automated software gathers and consolidates invoices, reducing the administrative burden on restaurant managers. It also gives those managers access to expense data and insight into restaurant costs.
The startup got its start as double-sided accounts payable (AP) product for restaurants and suppliers early last year. Wilson said the real growth began when Tab Commerce shifted its focus to restaurants exclusively. “We saw some good traction, but really, it took off when we focused only on the AP side for restaurants,” he added.
Coming out of the pandemic, restaurants now have to contend with a host of new problems, from high inflation to labour shortages.Wilson said that most restaurants are looking at where they can save and expand their margins, and Tab Commerce aims to help them do that by offering them greater insight into their expenses and prices.
Currently, Tab Commerce serves “several dozen” restaurants across Ontario, including Boxcar Social and Beatrice Society Cafe. Wilson hopes to be at more than 100 within the next three quarters.
The company’s broader vision involves taking the expense data it gathers and offering restaurants more insights into industry-wide pricing and trends. “Ultimately, the goal is to help save restaurants tens of thousands [of dollars] per year, if not hundreds,” said Wilson.
Feature image courtesy Tab Commerce.