For an established technology operator Christine de Wendel, coming back to Atlanta of France Seven months ago, it was a return to basics that was intentional, but perhaps one that wouldn’t have been easy at another point in the city’s growth cycle.
The co-founder and North America CEO of a restaurant technology startup Sunday left town for college, after graduating Atlanta International School just after the city’s Olympic night and long before it turned into a bustling tech hub.
For much of the intervening 20 years, Ms. De Wendel created e-commerce startups like Zalando and ManoMano in Paris, where it was well anchored in what it called a very united French technological ecosystem.
But she had also built a family, and it was time for a change because Sunday, a QR code-based payment and menu app, had proven its worth. Europe and has set its sights on the huge American market.
Sunday started as an app in Big Mamma Group restaurants, who have used it in their Italian concepts in France and London to reduce waiting times and increase table turnover. Instead of waiting for the waiter to come back with the bill, customers can use the Sunday app to scan a QR code displayed at the table, then pay and exit.
With 1,300 restaurants now using the technology, Sunday in April announced it had raised $ 24 million from Coatue, New Wave and other investors to tackle the United States, where the company has always planned to send one of its founders.
âSunday will clearly market itself as an American company with a strong presence in Europe. We are truly transatlantic, and being in Atlanta makes us even more American, âshe said.
The opportunity for a bicultural experience was important for Ms De Wendel and her husband, who are raising three children aged 4, 8 and 11 and came to the United States amid the pandemic as lockdowns in France abounded.
âIt was important for us for them to be here as young children for the optimism, self-esteem and confidence that comes with being in America,â she said, adding that language acquisition was also easier at a younger age.
While it didn’t hurt that Atlanta International School had a program to keep kids French, the city’s growing reputation as a technology hub was a key factor in its choice over more established cities like New York, where the couple had also lived for some time. Beyond family, Atlanta offered a supportive lifestyle, access to stellar engineers, and a reasonable cost of living, she said.
âAtlanta obviously ticked all the boxes, and we’re delighted to be here,â she said.
By chance, it also came about when the city was named pole of French Tech, a government designation that will position it to attract more attention from French founders and innovators. A young leader of the Franco-American Foundation, Ms. De Wendel knows the role of builder of bridges between the two countries. Their tech communities, she said, are more complementary than many realize despite their disparity in scale in terms of market size, capital flows and valuations.
âIn France you have brilliant engineers and extremely excellent intellectual firepower, but the market tends to be less daring and the speed at which you can develop things is a bit slower,â she said. . âJoining some of this French technology and engineering with the daring, speed and scale that you can have in America is actually a very nice combination.â
This is a key strategy for Sunday. The co-founders of Mme De Wendel, Tigrane Seydoux and Victor Lugger Big Mamma restaurants, remain in Europe, where the company will benefit from offices in London, Paris and Madrid, while Atlanta becomes the foothold in the United States
âOur assumption is that the market is huge,â she said of North America. âThere is real value in speeding up the time to checkout in the restaurant space.â
Sunday estimates that he cuts the payout time from an average of 15 minutes to just 10 seconds. Even in Europe, where dining is seen to be more about experience than speed and convenience, Sunday adoption has been incredibly high. In restaurants where the Sunday system is installed, 95% of customers choose to use it, Ms. De Wendel said. Half of the bills went to diners, another key feature, as restaurants turned 12 percent more tables.
Once entrenched in restaurants, Sunday hopes to branch out into the physical retail space – from malls and public transport to parking lots – which Ms De Wendel says is poised to be disrupted after decades of dependence on credit card terminals.
âWe start with restaurants, but our vision is much broader. We really want to become the B2C payment method for physical commerce. ”