Brazil’s culinary scene, like the multi-ethnic backgrounds that inhabit the country, is extremely diverse. Street vendors, hole-in-the-wall favorites, and Michelin star winners alike literally bring the country’s many flavors and ingredients to the table. But, Brazil’s restaurants have a problem: eighty percent of them end up failing in the first twenty-four months of operation. The inability of these restaurants to stay afloat has created inefficiencies for suppliers and other stakeholders in the industry and has also resulted in a high turnover of restaurant personnel. Suflex, a São Paulo based startup, is looking to tackle these problems head-on.
“It’s a huge turnover market,” says Co-Founder & CEO João Mendes de Oliveira, “it seems like the restaurants on any given street change quicker than the seasons.”
Tackling such a widespread obstacle is no easy feat, but this founding team feels like they have the know-how to get it done. Started in 2019, Suflex came into existence when João, who has experience with GVAngels and well-known Brazilian startup IDwall, was introduced to Co-Founder Rapha Despirite through his former boss. Rapha had been working in the restaurant industry his entire life, starting with his family-owned Marcel Restaurante. João had already been brainstorming on company ideas but wanted a partner to help him execute. “I knew I needed someone to challenge my vision or else I was going to build a company that is only me, and I am not always right,” he says. After the two met, they began to explore how they could solve the problems Rapha had come to know were common in restaurants.
After two months of market research, Suflex began brainstorming solutions. “After we determined the market size based on the restaurant turnover we saw, we turned our attention to the kitchen,” says João. The team began looking into all of the processes and systems that restaurants were using regularly. “The kitchen can use anywhere from five to eight different systems that don’t even talk to each other.” he continues, “This could be a spreadsheet, a notebook, a business management platform, and even delivery systems such as iFood and Rappi.” These insights helped Suflex create their first business model: a network that integrates these systems to help restaurant personnel accurately complete their day-to-day operations.
Equipped with nothing more than a pitch deck and an idea, the founding team went about raising funds to begin their startup, eventually raising a $400K Friends & Family round on a $2.5M pre-money valuation. Immediately after raising, they realized they had to make a change. “What we didn’t understand at first was that building this platform was the long-term vision, but it wasn’t a good go-to-market strategy.” João explains, “We didn’t understand how heavy that strategy would be, it was too high of a switching cost for customers.”
Suflex went back to their notes and looked for another way into the customers’ kitchen, eventually pivoting their business to focus on food labeling. João knew this could be the correct strategy, explaining the problem: ”This is something that is required by law, is done today by handheld tags, the labels are handwritten, and the actual database for acquiring the information is very complex. This leads to incorrect labeling which is both potentially bad for a restaurant patron but is also legal liability for the restaurant itself. The potential costs just keep adding up.” Knowing that there was a business need, and no competition in the space, the team got to work on their product.
This leads us to today. Currently, Suflex is supplying restaurants with a printer, a Raspberry Pi PC, and a tablet to take care of the label printing and hardware needs. All of this is backed up by their software, which contains a database for the restaurant’s registered products and Suflex’s forecasting platform. With this solution, restaurant personnel no longer need to think about when the product is going to expire based on the product type and the date. Now through Suflex’s system, they can just choose the product on a tablet, and a label is automatically printed with the correct information.
Some of the problems Suflex’s product is currently solving for restaurants include:
Automation of a manual process
Increased accuracy of dates
Lower productivity costs
Lower legal costs
Generation of an expiration forecast, allowing restaurants to use their resources more efficiently
Reduced waste and increased revenue
And this is only the beginning. The founding team has not forgotten their original concept, and have plans to continue building towards it. Although their current business model would allow them to bootstrap the business and continue to grow their product roadmap, Suflex is looking to raise another funding round later this year. “We want to be able to build this platform from the inside out, using the restaurant as the main source of data.” João says, “we want to centralize all of these data points and build out our ecosystem. This would allow us to add more intelligence and transparency to restaurant managers and the market.”
Suflex plans to build out their platform to improve on the expiration control system that they are currently providing to restaurants. They also have additional developments in their product roadmap. In the end, they want to offer a full-stack software solution for restaurants to more efficiently manage their operations. With this vision and the problems they are trying to tackle, Suflex can be the go-to solution for all restaurants, ultimately keeping your new favorite place open for business.
For more information on Suflex, please visit: https://www.suflex.co