Alex Canter On Taking His Family's 92-Year-Old Canter's Deli Digital

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

Alex Canter speaks at the Summit
Image by David Ruano

For true Angelenos, Canter’s Deli should need no introduction. The 92-year old restaurant seated in the central Los Angeles remains a staple of the community and a piece of the city’s identity. In a conversation with dot.LA CEO Sam Adams, founder of Nextbite, Alex Canter, explained how he’s bringing his family’s iconic restaurant into the modern age.

Nextbite is a virtual restaurant platform that helps restaurants connect with delivery apps like Uber Eats or DoorDash and provides opportunities for existing kitchens to drive new business by operating as ghost kitchens for delivery-only brands. If a steakhouse or a fine dining establishment has a slow day or downtime, they now have the option to fulfill online orders for delivery-only brands, expanding their sales and business–often by upwards of 30%, said Canter.

A venture that was initially a tough sell for the 4th generation Canter.

“I used to hear a lot, ‘If it’s not broke don’t fix it,’ but that drove me nuts,” he said. But like with so many other things, COVID changed the landscape and made the value of his business proposal readily apparent. “2020 was a devastating year for the restaurant industry. All of a sudden every single restaurant was scrambling to implement an omni-channel delivery service,” Canter told Adams on the mainstage at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. “In March of 2020 we signed up more restaurants than in the previous year combined.”

Spurred by the pandemic, Nextbite’s growth accelerated rapidly and Canter brought in investors from Softbank in a deal worth $120 million. The company expanded into collaborations with celebrities, including a “stoner brand” with Whiz Khalifa called “Packed Bowls” that caters to the predilections of cannabis aficionados and college kids. Think tater tots, PB&J, and mac and cheese topped with chicken nuggets.

Celebrities starting restaurants, however, is not a new trend. But as Canter pointed out, with the business moving to the ghost kitchen model, creating a new brand from scratch has never been easier or come with lower risk. And as celebrities had to cancel tours and events, the new revenue stream from such ventures became increasingly attractive.

“Open up DoorDash tonight, scroll through, find something that looks interesting and exciting,” Canter said. “It might not have a physical location, but that doesn’t really matter in today’s virtual world.”

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