“With Casper, we are building something great”

Last modified: 28 November 2023 15:33
The fastest-growing Belgian ghost kitchen chain can further expand its expansion through a Series A round by Dutch Slingshot Ventures.

Matthias Laga, co-founder and CEO of Casper, the largest ghost kitchen chain in Belgium, is pleased. In a Series A round, five million euros were raised. While it may sound like not such a large amount to outsiders, Laga sees it differently. “I come from a humble background,” says the outgoing Belgian. “For us, five million euros is indeed a lot of money. Money that makes that crucial financial step towards our goal for the summer of 2024 possible: we want to be present at 50 operational European locations by then!”

Casper is highly successful in the ghost or dark kitchen industry, delivery, and take-out restaurants that are particularly popular among millennials and Generation Z as customers. Last year, the company achieved a revenue growth of 210 percent and delivered more than 230,000 meals ordered from ten virtual restaurants. The menus are diverse, ranging from Gloria’s pasta, Barney’s burgers, healthy salads, and bagels to completely vegan dishes from De Vegetarische Slager.

The company was founded in March 2020 by Matthias Laga, Zhong Xu of Deliverect, and Peter Van Praet of Bavet. Casper is a chain of hybrid delivery and take-out restaurants that sells ten high-quality virtual brands for different tastes. competitively priced, sustainably packaged.

Your Food Friend Next Door

“Our formula differs from the competition in that we are completely visible in the streetscape,” says Matthias Laga from Ghent, where Casper’s headquarters is located, still above one of the first own restaurants. “So no blinded shop windows and windows in back alleys, but transparent locations, clearly recognizable branding, the technology to place walk-in orders, and waiting areas for the delivery drivers. Because we have nothing to hide.”

Laga has a dream with Casper, Your Food Friend Next Door: he wants to become the leading European player in the ghost kitchen industry. A dream that must come true in various steps. “By this time next year, Casper will have twenty operational locations,” he looks optimistically ahead. “We are already preparing for new locations in The Hague, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Breda, and Rotterdam. We are also expanding further in Belgium. And we set foot on French soil, with a kitchen in Lille.”

Proud of the past, eagerly looking forward to the future. That characterizes Casper. “We have achieved beautiful things in the past two years, but at the same time, we realize that the biggest challenge still lies ahead,” says the CEO. “That the best is yet to come. This funding works for us as an accelerator, as a catalyst. Expansion into new markets, meeting the constantly growing demand for convenience.”

Delivery-Proof Offering

A delivery-proof offering, combined with tech, marketing, and operational expertise, defines Casper. With ambitious individuals, even behind the scenes of the company. One of the co-founders, serial entrepreneur Zhong Xu of food-tech scale-up Deliverect, grew the company to a valuation of $1.4 billion in just four years. Zhong had previously founded a company, sold later to Lightspeed, even before joining Deliverect.

“Zhong Xu is a co-founder of Casper but has never been operationally involved,” says Matthias Laga. “This Series-A round led by Slingshot Ventures from Amsterdam was realized in collaboration with Zhong, Jan Hollez – also from Deliverect – and Jürgen Ingels of Smartfin. The belief in our concept from so many successful serial entrepreneurs and investors not only gives confidence in the future but also a tremendous boost to the passionate people within our team.”

Orders can be placed directly at the virtual restaurants – Laga prefers to call them hybrid kitchens rather than ghost kitchens – or through Casper, where different brands can be combined into one order, one delivery. Characteristic of the start-up: the zero-waste policy and the aim to work with local suppliers as much as possible. Meals are delivered to the door within thirty minutes, and those who visit one of the locations only have to wait an average of ten minutes. Pre-ordering with click & collect is even more time-saving.

“And,” Matthias Laga explains, “those who walk into our place and wait get coffee, can play games. We add that extra layer on top of the existing ghost kitchens.”

Well Positioned for Growth

In Amsterdam, Tanja Kramer, Principal at Slingshot Ventures, a venture capital fund investing in rapidly growing consumer-tech companies, comments on the five million euros raised in the Series-A round: “We are delighted to support Casper in changing the online meal delivery experience and becoming part of this impressive growth story.”

Continuing, she says, “The dark kitchens market is growing exponentially, fueled by the rapid adoption of online meal orders and the rise of on-demand meal delivery apps. Casper, as a market leader in Belgium, is well positioned to expand internationally. As Slingshot Ventures, we are impressed by Matthias and his team’s continuous focus on customer satisfaction, product quality, and operational management.”

Matthias Laga’s dream of becoming a leading European player was born in New York, where the co-founder and CEO of Casper worked as the operational director of a Belgian waffle chain for five years. In the land of unlimited possibilities, Laga learned that you should never say ‘never.’

So perhaps that step across the ocean, to set foot on American soil someday? “Indeed, I never say ‘never’,” Laga laughs heartily. “But there, in the United States, just like in the Far East, they are much further ahead than we are in the world of meal delivery. So first expansion in Europe, first becoming big here. After Belgium, we’ll visit the Netherlands, France, and – in the fourth quarter of 2022 – Luxembourg. Because we, at Casper, are working and building something big.”

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