Toast, the Boston-based restaurant tech company with offices in Chicago, on Friday signaled plans to go public by filing for an initial public offering. The decade-old brand aims to raise $100 million, catching a wave of significant investment in hospitality-focused technology companies — a niche that has since nearly $3.5 billion through investments, IPOs, and acquisitions since the start of 2021, according to Restaurant Business News.
Initially founded as a mobile payment app, Toast has become ubiquitous in restaurants through a host of features including point-of-sale systems, delivery software, marketing tools, and more. Social distancing and increased demand for takeout and delivery during the pandemic appear to have further accelerated growth and investment in restaurant tech: web giant Squarespace, which this spring acquired Chicago-based reservation platform Tock, has also confidentially filed for an IPO.
Toast use soared during the pandemic with restaurants turning to takeout and in need of an online ordering system. For many restaurants, Toast also provided a cost-effective alternative to Grubhub and DoorDash. Those companies are the subject of lawsuits filed Friday by the city of Chicago, which alleges a myriad of deceptive practices against restaurants, consumers, and even delivery drivers.
Other notable Chicago brands are also eyeing expansion: iconic local chain Portillo’s Hot Dogs is planning an initial public offering between $2.5 billion to $3 billion by year’s end. Famed deep dish pizza chain Lou Malnati’s, which could be valued at $700 million, has also reportedly hired an advisor to explore a sale.
And other news...
— Tribune co-critic Nick Kindelsperger lavishes praise Monday morning upon Lardon, Logan Square’s newish all-day cafe and charcuterie cave from chef Chris Thompson (Coda Di Volpe). “Lardon not only knows how to make salumi and charcuterie, but cares deeply about serving them... Each selection arrives at your table at the optimal temperature, so the soppressata originale ($5), a dry-cured and fermented sausage featuring sizable chunks of pork and fat, tastes so luscious, it seems to dissolve in your mouth.”
Though meats are clear stars of the show, Kindelsperger urges diners to try the “shocking[ly]” good selection of salads — including the Green Monster (broccolini, zucchini, shishito pepper, toasted farro, tarragon-spied green goddess dressing) — and sandwiches that all “show potential” aside from dense or spongey bread. The review also addresses Thompson’s brand new dinner menu — an inclusion that could have undermined Lardon’s lunchtime successes, but ultimately didn’t thanks to an “extra-crackly” crispy duck leg confit and enormous, “outrageously juicy” wood-grilled pork chop.
— The wife-and-husband team behind adored South Indian street food stall Thattu are raising funds for Sadya, their new 24-page cooking zine, via Kickstarter. Named for an enormous vegetarian celebration meal native to the coast state of Kerala, Sadya (which refers to an auspicious South Indian feast) will include Margaret Pak and Vinod Kalathil’s photographs, illustrations, stories, tips, and more than a dozen recipes including lentil stews with tamarind and vegetable stir fries with grated coconut and curry leaves. The project also from Chicago food writer and Eater Chicago contributor Maggie Hennessy, who has made zines her thing, previously teaming with El Che Steakhouse’s John Manion. Meanwhile, Thattu, which has been without a permanent home since pre-pandemic, leaving Politan Row food hall in West Loop, has several pop-ups planned. Stay tuned for a larger update.
— The 167-room Study Hotel at the University of Chicago, underway since early 2020, is slated to open in September at 1227 E. 60th Street in Hyde Park, according to Urbanize Chicago. The third project from hospitality group Study Hotels, the new venue will include an “intimate tavern/restaurant” and an event space dubbed the Winter Garden.