September 28, 2022
Founder & CEO
Performed at a quick tempo //
Suggesting that something has been done so easily that it seems to be magic
- Definition of ‘Presto’, Oxford Languages
If you believe that automation will continue to be more prevalent in the face of crippling labor shortages… you already believe in Presto.
I founded Presto when I was a graduate student at MIT in 2008, and the mission then remains the same as it is today: to transform physical industries like restaurants with next-generation automation technology.
I have always been fascinated with the contrast between amazing modern consumer technology and the often excruciating old-fashioned experiences of going out to eat at a restaurant. Something so fundamental to our lives as eating out should be as easy as ordering something on Amazon, as personalized as a Netflix homepage and as seamless as swiping on an iPhone. But it’s not - instead eating out often entails long wait times, generic cookie-cutter experiences and unengaged service, even with the most savvy brands.
As I learned over 14 years, there’s a good reason for that dichotomy - modernizing physical industries with technology is extremely hard. Much harder than updating a website or mobile app. It’s a much more complex problem working with bits and atoms both - yet as a technologist that excites me, and motivates the entire Presto team today.
Presto provides automation solutions for large enterprise customers using highly advanced AI, seamlessly combining disparate technologies of Voice AI, Computer Vision and Touch into a single unified platform. All of our solutions deliver better, more personalized experiences for restaurant guests while helping restaurants be more labor efficient and generate more revenue per guest. A simple example is Presto Voice AI - which takes orders at a drive-thru instead of humans so restaurants can save labor but also upsell better and deliver consistent speedy service.
There is not a single company in the world that has a technology platform like ours - let alone delivering it at the scale we deliver it. We take pride in not only being ‘first’, but also being the ‘best’ and ‘biggest’ in our field.
Well over $100B is spent on labor annually in the restaurant space in operating expenses - a figure that is climbing and hurting this low margin industry. And yet going to restaurants remains more popular than ever - in-person interactions are still incredibly sought after by consumers even after a pandemic that ran a worldwide experiment on how humans would live in isolation.
There remains no good substitute to the physical world… we cannot eat in the Metaverse!
Transforming physical commerce is getting far more valuable to solve as low-wage labor becomes more scarce in rich countries. Millions of jobs remain unfilled today - a trend that started pre-pandemic and has only gotten much worse since. In mature economies with slowing birth rates, limited immigration and booming gig economy options, why would labor choose to work at lower margin businesses that have less pleasant and flexible working conditions?
It is the largest enterprises - the restaurant chains - that can best leverage our solutions. As our products are cutting-edge and focus on delivering clear ROI, they are necessarily appropriate only for sophisticated customers with access to capital. Our customer relationships span decades over multiple renewals and we take our reputation and referenceability very seriously.
Internally, our long-term goals have not changed since founding.
We believe the right strategy for our customers and for Presto is to be long-term oriented. Plant the right seeds today, nurture the saplings in the short-term and harvest the fruit for decades to come.
Presto is now a publicly traded company under the PRST symbol on Nasdaq. This move provides us greater access to capital that will be used to accelerate technology development and market adoption. As a result, restaurants across the world can have access to today’s best technology, receive a continuous stream of ongoing innovation, and be assured of getting a variety of complementary technologies to support their future needs.
I’m excited about Presto because we’re solving difficult technology challenges in massive markets that can transform fundamental aspects of all of our daily lives. If we do our jobs right, the results will be magical. ‘Presto’ indeed!
About the Author
Rajat founded Presto in 2008 while pursuing his doctorate at MIT. He has also cofounded Zimride (now Lyft), the popular ride-sharing company. A widely acknowledged expert in hospitality technology, Rajat is regularly featured in television interviews and media articles.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a media interview or analyst briefing with him.