Hospitality start-up The Village Co, which is changing the way restaurants entertain young customers, has raised $1.2 million in a seed round.

The Hunter Valley-based augmented reality tech start-up was backed by new and existing investors, including accountancy firm PKF.

CEO and founder Mick Carr said the seed round was a major milestone for the company.

“The investment will allow The Village Co to continue our growth, with a focus on our Grub Lab product,” he said.

“Along with funding from investors, our recent partnerships with a number of leading hospitality companies highlights the appetite for technology innovation within this sector.”

Grub Lab is a recently launched sub-brand developed in partnership with Simplot Foodservice.

Grub Lab develops interactive children’s Augmented Reality (AR) activity packs to entertain children, designed for restaurants with a focus on the family market.

Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley Hotel Services Manager Gregory Rutherford said families and tech-savvy kids expect more from their dining experience and Grub Lab is a solution.

“We are always looking for ways in which we can enrich our customer’s interactions and provide a special dining occasion at our establishments,” he said.

“The Grub Lab entertainment packs allow us to do just that, and our guests love them.”

The Village Co has also partnered with the National Rugby League to develop an NRL-themed activity pack available from Grub Lab foodservice venues.

Users can play with NRL-themed AR experiences such as ‘NRL Strike’, ‘NRL Footy Finds’, ‘Mascot Memory,’ and ‘NRL AR Colouring In’. Kids can also play as their favourite mascot and the games and activities in the Grub Lab app

Mick Carr said: “The industry has faced many challenges during the past 15 months, and we hope that by partnering with leading national and international entertainment and sporting brands, like the NRL, our technology will help to ensure added value and better experiences for families when they dine out.”

The Village Co team now consists of 15 people and the company has reshaped its formal advisory board to help spearhead its rapid expansion as the hospitality sector emerges from under the clouds of covid.