Jacksonville Startup Hazlnut Raises $3 Million in Series A Funding to Accelerate Growth

Hazlnut, a SaaS company that provides restaurants with their own branded apps and online ordering platforms, announced today that it has raised $3 million in a Series A funding round. Atlanta Ventures led the investment, along with PS27 Ventures Rhea Fund.

Jon Birdsong, a partner at Atlanta Ventures, said Hazlnut was the right company to invest in because, as soon as they crossed paths, “[Atlanta Ventures] immediately knew they were a team who obsesses over the customer, solves their gravest problems, and provides a preeminent user experience.”

Hazlnut is on a mission to help local, independent, and regional restaurant brands thrive. They do so by providing a software template for web-based, app, and in-store ordering solutions. The cost of hiring web and app developers is a greater investment than most restaurant owners can afford. Hazlnut offers development, onboarding and on-going support at an affordable monthly rate. 

The restaurant industry has proven to be tougher than ever for smaller brands thanks to the increasing competition, the rise of third party delivery providers who take a large chunk of every sale, and the overall complexity of managing multiple technology solutions. With Hazlnut, your local favorites can offer online and mobile ordering solutions, a full scale loyalty program, and Panera-like kiosks for guests who want an interactive menu with high resolution images and robust descriptions. 

“With software, if you can envision it, you can build it. We come in and help lift up small businesses to help them compete with bigger brands like Panera and McDonald’s. It’s rewarding seeing local businesses rise to the competition,” said Dick Sikes, Co-Founder and CEO of Hazlnut.

The company had previously closed a seed round funded by PS27 Ventures in 2018 of  less than $200,000. Jim Stallings, CEO of PS27 Ventures, is excited to see Hazlnut grow exponentially.

With this funding, Hazlnut is not wasting any time to grow aggressively. They are looking to fill key roles such as Head of Software Engineering, Sales Director, and Director of Marketing, as well as growing their sales, service, and engineering teams. 

About Hazlnut

Hazlnut is an all-in-one ordering solution that helps companies develop deeper relationships with their customers through beautifully designed websites and custom branded apps.

If you know a restaurant owner who is in need of an online ordering and loyalty solution, let us know! 

About Atlanta Ventures

Atlanta Ventures empowers entrepreneurs to start, grow, and scale.

Create Companies / We co-found companies via the Studio with driven founders in a collaborative environment

Fund Founders / We partner with companies seeking early stage funding

Equip Entrepreneurs / We provide content, tools, and events to empower the startup community

About PS27 Ventures

PS27 Ventures invests in early-stage companies that are driving dramatic changes in high-growth markets. ​​We invest in early stage startup ideas and businesses, supporting their growth with a broad range of expertise from a team of highly regarded professionals. Bringing selected startups into our accelerator, we work side by side with them to grow their business and help them realize their true potential. 

Our team of experts takes a hands-on approach, helping startups succeed. 

About the Rhea Fund

The PS27 Rhea Fund is a 20 million dollar venture capital fund focused on early-stage technology companies. Rhea Fund is seeking to invest in early-stage solutions in SaaS, HealthTech, FinTech, Sustainability, and E-Commerce companies that can scale rapidly. Rhea Fund also has an interest in founders who are women, veterans, and people of color.  

For more information about the Rhea Fund please email us at info@ps27ventures.com.

How Hazlnut wants to help Small Business Using PPP Loan

Small businesses make up over 99% of US businesses, and Hazlnut, being a part of that statistic, wants to help other small businesses. There are resources in place from the SBA that allow small businesses to stay afloat in these trying times, and new guidelines on those resources have recently been published. The new guidelines may allow some funds from the small business PPP loan program to be used on software, and that is where Hazlnut fits in. We provide contactless ordering to keep your employees and customers safe. More information about that can be found here.

According to various sources, the SBA is now allowing 40% of the funds received from the small business PPP loan to go to non-payroll expenses. This helps small businesses allocate some funds to create a safer environment for employees and customers. Using contactless ordering is a sure way to create a safer environment for everyone and Hazlnut provides the means to set up contactless ordering. In our contactless ordering blog post, we talked about order types and how we can customize them to fit most contactless order types.

We are here to get restaurants set up with a premium contactless ordering solution fully integrated with their Clover station. We offer online ordering and mobile apps and are running several promotions. Contact us at sales@hazlnut.com, and we would be happy to answer any questions and show a demo of our system. Please contact your PPP lender to ensure they will cover Hazlnut in the loan.

Your Newest Employee: Hazlnut Restaurant Kiosks

Restaurant kiosks are the self-ordering solution your business craves. As people go back out to restaurants and return to some level of normalcy, restaurant operations have become stressed to a near breaking point.

16 months have passed since COVID-19 impacted daily lives forever. As people go back out to restaurants and return to some level of normalcy, restaurant operations have become stressed to a near breaking point. Meet Hazlnut, a company that is helping to bring new-age technology to small businesses across the country.

Meeting a Demand for a Market Heavily Impacted by COVID-19

As restaurants struggle to hire serving staff, Hazlnut provides a solution that is helping brands win big through the use of restaurant kiosks. Seamlessly integrated with popular point of sale systems, Hazlnut helps deepen customer relationships by managing lines, increasing front of house efficiency, and providing a custom dining experience that can keep up with demand without the hassle of hiring a new employee. Kiosks allow customers to place their own orders so, managers can reallocate staff to more pressing tasks like food prep. When a customer places their order through a kiosk, there is also an increase in order accuracy.

“With software, if you can envision it, you can build it. We come in and help lift up small businesses to help compete with bigger brands like Panera Bread and McDonald’s. It’s rewarding seeing local businesses rise to the competition,” said Dick Sikes, Co-Founder and CEO of Hazlnut.

The timing is just right for such a product as well.

Restaurant kiosks are gaining in popularity, and customers are starting to prefer them. In fact, certain customers prefer them. Customers like interacting with kiosks as they tend to present the menu in a clearer way (with high resolution pictures) and restaurant owners can ensure that any ‘add-on’ mods are charged for appropriately.

John & Angie, Franchisees at Larry’s Giant Subs (Florida) said, “Already planning to purchase more for our other locations!”

Hazlnut connects restaurants directly to customers through e-commerce, online sales, and point of sale systems such as Clover, which is used in millions of restaurants worldwide. This saves time for employees so that they don’t have to pick up the phone as often and can focus on who they are serving in-stores. Wait time decreases and every order can be filled faster.

Optimize your business with an integrated kiosk, website, and branded app today by Scheduling a Demo with Hazlnut. To follow their story, visit Hazlnut.com.

Jax Favorites: Best Brunch Spots

Summertime is almost here, and there’s no better way to enjoy the sunshine than brunch! Check out these local spots for our favorite foods and some of the absolute best drinks & brunch cocktails! 

Canopy Road Cafe

This local gem offers an incredible menu filled with options for a wide variety of visitors. 

Our favorite foods:
• Southern Benedict
• Mutt’s Breakfast Club
• Fat Elvis Pancakes
• Palm Beach Club

Best drinks:
• Canopy Road Coffee (Lucky Goat Coffee Co.)
• Arnold Palmer
• Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice

“Here at Canopy, we always say we have something for everyone. We specialize in taking traditional diner favorites and adding our own little twists. The results are both exciting and delicious – see for yourself!”

Casa Marina

Looking for a brunch spot to visit before hitting the beach? Look no further! This hotel offers indoor and outdoor seating for brunch exclusively on Sundays. The back door leads directly to the sand!

Our favorite foods:
• Beignets
• Breakfast Burrito
• Shrimp & Sweet Hash

Best drinks:
• Watermelon-Rosemary Mimosa
• The Ultimate Bloody
• Espresso White Russian

“For twenty years, The Casa Marina Sunday Brunch continues to receive dining awards for its marvelous classic dishes, local seafood and house-made desserts.”

The French Pantry

The line out the door is a clear indicator of how incredible their food is! Believe me, it’s worth the wait…

Our favorite foods:
• French Dips
• Portobello & Mozzarella Bruschetta
• Blueberry Farmers Tart
• Cheese Danish

“The French Pantry can trace its iconic Northeast Florida roots more than 20 years, and since then, not much has changed. Our food has a cult following, and our breads and pastries are sought after by restaurants around the region.”

River & Post

This rooftop restaurant located in Downtown Jax along the St. John’s will treat you to some of the best views. 

Our favorite foods:
• Bread Pudding French Toast
• Eggs Benedict Cubano
• Stuffed Mushrooms

Best drinks:
• Florida Georgia Line
• R&P Bloody Mary
• Bourbon & Berries

“River & Post is a culinary driven restaurant in a warm, modern setting where we strive to captivate our guests with quality ingredients, impeccable service and memorable accommodations for any occasion.”

Johnny’s Angels

If you’re looking to travel back in time, this diner is the place for you! As soon as you walk in, you’re greeted by the 1950s aesthetic, the best shakes in town, and other American classics. 

Our favorite foods:
• The Thunderbird
• Breakfast at Tiffany’s
• The Elvis Special
• The Richie Cunningham

Best drinks:
• Oreo Shake
• Creamsicle
• Malts

“Enjoy our homemade burgers, hand-dipped shakes, and scrumptious sandwiches, all served by our friendly staff.”

Delicomb

Unique bagel sandwiches are their specialty, with a new one almost every week! Sit back and relax at this beautiful little shop within walking distance to the beach.

Our favorite food:
• Açaí Bowl
• Sunshine Bagel
• Del Fuego Special

Best drinks:
• Café Au Lait
• Dirty Chai
• Granita 

“Delicomb is locally owned and operated. We make it how we’d want it! Delicombilicious.”

Let us know what you think by tagging us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn if you get a chance to try one of these out. Keep up with the ‘JAX Favorites’ series and read some of our other blogs here.

Address Verification System (AVS): Fraud Prevention

Combat fraudulent orders with address verification tools

As a business, the customer experience is always the number one priority. For customers who order ahead, that experience begins at your website, ordering site or mobile ordering app. In situations where the customer is ordering remotely (not presenting their card in-person), you may run into the risk of fraud. It’s simply unavoidable. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk as consumer, and also as a business.

Image sourced from the Consumer Sentinel Network data book published by the FTC in 2020

As a consumer

The FTC published their 2020 findings for the Consumer Sentinel Network data book which found more than 2 million fraud reports were filed. Between January – September of 2021, it is estimated that more than 2 million Americans fell victim to card fraud, with a total loss calculated at $3.3 Billion. Thieves can gain access a few different ways, including:

Physical theft: This one is a no-brainer. Theft has existed since the creation of the Mesopotamian shekel, and perhaps even since Otis the Iceman. Keep your wallets and purses close to you at all times, and only hand over your card to a trustworthy person/vendor or if you feel your life is in danger. 

Requested: Suspicious phone calls, mailed invoices and phishing emails are relatively familiar methods to most people living in the 21st century. More recently, similar requests can be sent via text message, social media, and QR code scanning. Before providing personal information to anybody, make sure it is a bill you were expecting to pay or it is being sent from a trustworthy sender. 

Skimming: Magnetic strips offer little-to-no security; inserting the chip for payment is more secure. However, if a merchant only accepts swipe technology, there’s not much the buyer can do. The malware can be installed physically, but most recently it has been accessed through the network. This malware would impact the merchants’ entire point-of-sale ecosystem. Obviously, not all swipe technologies are monitored by hackers who can remotely steal card information, but as a buyer you should be aware of this risk.

Malware: Phishing emails are relatively familiar methods to most people living in the 21st century. More recently, untrustworthy links can be sent via text message, social media, and QR code scanning. Before clicking on any links, make sure it is a message you were expecting to receive or it is being sent from a trustworthy sender. 

Image sourced from the Consumer Sentinel Network data book published by the FTC in 2020

As a business

If a customer’s card is stolen or they were the victim of a card reader scam, someone who isn’t the card owner may be able to use that card information to make fraudulent purchases. As a restaurant owner, you can take extra steps to guarantee their card cannot be used on your web or app ordering by anyone other than the authorized card user.

When adding their payment, customers will be prompted to enter more than just a CVV

AVS Security

Hazlnut has a great tool to protect not only your customers, but also your business from fraudulent activity. By requiring a postal code or billing address, the person entering the card information to pay online will need to know more than what can be found on the physical card. As a business, it will reduce the amount of chargebacks received since you are taking those extra steps to block fraudulent charges at your business. 

Clover has an account setting dedicated to fraud prevention tools that allow you to automatically void suspicious payments taken from Virtual Terminal and the eCommerce API. They don’t block payments taken from your point of sale device, but it will validate additional information. By default, all Hazlnut orders require the Card Verification Value (CVV) and a matching/valid expiration date. If you would like to use the Clover Address Verification System (AVS) tools, Hazlnut can require additional fields including postal code and street address. The Clover payment system will validate this information and accept or decline the payment.

How to turn on Address Verification (Clover):

You can enable it by going to your Clover dashboard (please do this from a web browser)

1. Click on Account & Setup on the bottom left
2. Under the ‘Transactions’ group, click on Fraud Tools
3. Click to ‘Show Rules’ for the Address Verification System (AVS) group
4. Here, there are 6 options that perform different functions. 
5. Make your selection, and click ‘Save’. 

You can also visit the Clover Help Center for more information (Scroll down to “Set up fraud prevention tools”): https://www.clover.com/en-US/help/set-options-for-using-virtual-terminal 

Please let us know if you would like to prevent fraudulent transactions through Hazlnut with the Clover Address Verification System (AVS) by contacting us today.

Physical Deterrents

Also, keep in mind… Your staff are always the first line of defense. If you’re faced with an increased number of disputes and looking for options to avoid these chargebacks, you can have the staff require identification or have the customer present the credit card used at pickup. This simple, old fashioned approach can help deter future instances of credit card fraud as would be bad actors will know this is your policy and look for easier prey. At Hazlnut, you can even add this as an urgent message or a pop-up to let customers know they’ll need to bring ID and the name on the ID needs to match the name on the card at pickup.

Of course, as we mentioned in the beginning, all steps taken should consider the overall impact to the customer experience. It’s give and take. You want to add more protections to help your store avoid chargebacks while not impeding the overall customer experience.