Praised as an innovative platform that not only pivoted to adapt to the new realities at the time, but also supported restaurants during the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Chicago-based Tock, has been acquired by Squarespace for $400 million, elevating its founder, Chicago restaurateur Nick Kokonas to multi-millionaire status almost overnight.
Although he never intended to get involved in the restaurant business when he was younger– despite his Greek last name and his family heritage— his father owned a Greek diner in Chicago in the 1950s— Kokonas has created some of the world’s most successful and well-known restaurants, including Alinea, The Aviary, Next and Roister.
In 2014, Nick co-founded Tock, a reservation system now in use by thousands of restaurants in 51 cities in 14 countries.
Tock was one of the first platforms to adapt to government orders that shuttered restaurants across the world.
As early as late February and early March 2020, he was he one of the few restaurateurs in Chicago that saw the writing on the wall and acted fast. He spoke publicly about how the coronavirus pandemic could seriously challenge the restaurant industry and simultaneously attempting to come up with ways to survive.
He developed several contingency plans for his restaurants and also retool Tock for a world where restaurant dining rooms were forced to stay closed. In a shockingly short amount of time, Kokonas launched Tock to Go, a system that allowed restaurants to easily sell meals for pickup.
Kokonas announced the news of the $400 million sale on his personal Twitter page.
Kokonas and his team at Tock have received widespread praise from the industry, as well as from officials at the City of Chicago, who noted the platform’s support of small businesses, including helping restaurants that never before had a take-out business by providing them with a low-fee option to sell food to go.
At a 3 percent commission, it was more affordable for restaurants compared to the 15 to 30 percent in fees that other third parties like DoorDash and Grubhub charge its clients. Tock has also expanded its footprint to include more than elite restaurants and to offer traditional reservations, not just ones that are prepaid. Museums, pizzerias, and dive bars are among new clients picked up during 2020.
Specific details of the transaction have not been made public, nor has the percentage of ownership helps by Kokonas, versus that of investors. But as a co-founder of the company, it is believed he held a sizable share.
He will remain as CEO of Tock, according to a Squarespace press release.
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