Newland Syndicate
5 min readMay 15, 2023

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Newland Fireside Chat with Cala, a robotics enabled restaurant brand

Newland has recently invested in robotics enabled restaurant brand Cala ahead of their upcoming Series A round. Miguel and Oliver caught up with Ylan Richard, CEO and founder of Cala, to get his thoughts on Cala’s future and how technology can reshape the B2C fast food landscape.

Miguel: Ylan, it is good to see you. Tell us about the inception of Cala. What inspired you to start the company and what was the initial problem you set out to solve?

Ylan: At Cala, our mission to make real food more accessible is deeply rooted in our own experiences. As students, we often struggled to find affordable, high-quality meals, and we recognized that this was a problem faced by many people. That’s why we founded Cala with the goal of leveraging technology to improve kitchen efficiency and reduce operating costs, making it easier for restaurants to offer affordable, nutritious meals to their customers. Our restaurant chain serves as a testament to the effectiveness of our approach, and we are proud to be making a positive impact on the industry.

Oliver: You and your co-founders launched Cala when you were just 19, how have you found the experience of being such a young founding team?

Ylan: As a young founding team, we have found the experience to be both challenging and rewarding. While we cannot compare our experience to that of older founders, we have certainly faced unique obstacles as a result of our age. For example, when we tell people that we are founders, we often receive odd looks or skeptical responses. We have had to work harder to prove ourselves and earn the trust of investors, partners, and customers. However, our lack of experience in the restaurant industry has allowed us to approach every problem from first principles and look at things with a fresh perspective. This has enabled us to develop innovative solutions that leverage technology to improve kitchen efficiency and reduce operating costs. Our lack of preconceptions about how things “should” be done has enabled us to think creatively and come up with new approaches to age-old problems. We believe that this tech-enabled, fresh take is what sets us apart in the industry and has been a key factor in our success.

Oliver: Can you walk us through Cala’s journey so far?

Ylan: Certainly. Cala’s journey so far has been an exciting one. We started by focusing on pasta, salads, and sandwiches, as these are products that everyone enjoys and eats regularly. We launched our first restaurant in October 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. Despite the challenging circumstances, we were able to make it a success on delivery platforms. As the pandemic continued, we shifted our focus to take-away customers, and we have seen strong growth in this area. More recently, we have expanded our footprint with the launch of two new restaurants and a mobile app. We are constantly innovating and looking for ways to improve the customer experience, and we have plenty of exciting things coming in the next few months. Overall, we are proud of what we have accomplished so far and are excited about the future of Cala.

Miguel: Let’s switch to talking about where Cala is today and the vision for Cala in the next 5 years? Are incumbent competitors switching toward robotics enabled operations and how are they different from you?

Ylan: Certainly. Our vision for Cala is to continue expanding and making real food more accessible to more and more people. We plan to open hundreds of sites in the next 5 years, and we are constantly looking for ways to improve the customer experience and streamline operations.

While there are incumbent competitors who are beginning to adopt robotics-enabled operations, we believe that our approach sets us apart. Unlike many of our competitors, we are designing the food and the robotics at the same time, rather than retrofitting robotics to an existing menu. This approach makes the technology simpler and more reliable, and enables us to create a more seamless and integrated experience for both our customers and our employees. We believe that this focus on innovation and integration will be a key factor in our success as we continue to grow and expand.

Oliver: Cala have attracted notable investors to date, including the CEO of Burger King France. Walk us through your thoughts on wanting to work with Newland and your experience so far?

Ylan: Working with Newland has been a great experience for us at Cala. From our initial conversations, it was clear that they deeply understood our business and shared our vision for the future of the restaurant industry. The investment process was swift and efficient, and we appreciated their independent conviction in our company and our mission.

Since partnering with Newland, they have been a valuable resource for us, offering guidance and support wherever they can. They are a great team to work with — not only are they knowledgeable and experienced in the industry, but they are also friendly and approachable. Overall, we are grateful for our partnership with Newland and look forward to continuing to work together to achieve our goals.

Miguel: What are the most significant challenges you’ve faced so far and what do you envisage will be the main challenges in the coming years?

Ylan: Certainly. As with any startup, we have faced our fair share of challenges along the way. One of the biggest challenges has been creating a successful restaurant brand and an exceptional menu, which is hard enough on its own. On top of that, developing sophisticated robotics and automation solutions for the kitchen has been extremely challenging, both from a technical and operational standpoint.

Now that we have proven the site-level economics of our model, our main challenge in the coming years will be scaling while maintaining an exceptional customer experience. As we open more restaurants and expand our footprint, we need to ensure that we are able to deliver the same high-quality food and service that our customers have come to expect. This will require us to continue to innovate and improve our operations, while also staying true to our core values and mission. We are confident that we have the team and the technology to overcome these challenges and achieve our goals.

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Newland Syndicate
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Operator-investors in Food & AgTech. Pre-seed and seed stage.