Options, developments, and news in restaurant tech


Welcome to Expedite, a (mostly) weekly newsletter by Kristen Hawley covering what’s important in restaurant technology.

Hello from a special Monday edition of Expedite.

I’m committed to aggregating a list of informative and useful information relating to restaurant and hospitality technology during these challenging times.

Emails will be archived here, with a proper Expedite website coming shortly.

Things are changing fast. Please send any relevant information or changes to kristen@kristenhawley.com and I’ll update this accordingly. This isn’t exhaustive coverage — I recommend following local news sources for the latest in your area.

Third Party’s Responsibility to Restaurants

As technology in the restaurant industry has grown over the past decade, every third-party company that’s launched has done so on the premise of helping restaurants grow and thrive. (I know because I’ve read all the releases for the past seven years.)

Last week, Grubhub announced it would defer fees for independent restaurants (“delaying our revenue” is what consumers read via email from Grubhub CEO.) No word on when the commissions will become due.

On Monday morning, Uber Eats announced it is waiving delivery fees for 100,000 independent restaurants in the U.S. and Canada on its platform. It’s also changing the way restaurants are paid: businesses can opt in to receive daily payments from Uber Eats instead of standard weekly payments.

Nick Kokonas, CEO of restaurant reservations and ticketing service Tock, just announced Tock To Go: Prix Fixe and set meals for pickup or delivery and two-way text for contactless delivery. For more information and signup visit http://exploretock.com/join/togo.

All major services are advising customers to use a “no contact” delivery option — which for most just means requesting this in the “notes” section of your delivery or texting your driver or delivery person with details. Expect this option to be added to delivery apps and websites soon.

Many restaurant software companies are already waiving customer subscription fees, ensuring restaurants won’t have to pay right now. I expect more will follow suit. If you are (or you know of) a company that’s doing this, please tell me.

A reminder: Government restrictions on restaurant operations are changing by the minute. Support local restaurants to the best of your ability and comfort level — they’re working hard to stay afloat while following regulations and still provide hospitality to guests.

Pay It Forward

Almost immediately, consumers took to Twitter to encourage one another to buy gift cards to restaurants, infusing them with much-needed capital now. It’s a good idea, and plenty of businesses are offering gift cards at a discount. Do this. And if the restaurant that you’re working to support doesn’t make it through this challenge, please do not go searching for your money back on the other side of this.

Most restaurant point of sale systems include the capacity to offer gift cards, and even businesses who haven’t offered them in the past can do so. (For example, here’s how to do it via Square.)

BentoBox, a restaurant website design company, is opening up its suite of customer offerings to all restaurants. CEO Krystle Mobayeni cited a “clear opportunity to support the industry and offer these as a stand alone.” The company offers direct online ordering and gift card capabilities. More from Krystle: Getting set up is simple. The restaurant just needs a stripe or square account to process payments. We provide a front end credit card form with denominations, each gift card gets emailed to the recipient with a redemption code (and QR code if they choose), with a whole backend redemption system that is very easy to use. We’re seeing some restaurants offer promo codes too in order to thank people for the support. Probably takes less than an hour to set up, and our team helps out.”

Similarly, Sociavore, a self-service website builder for restaurants, allows restaurants to sell digital gift cards, and physical gift cards available for pickup or mailed, through Square. Restaurant customers pay no additional fees beyond the standard payment processing. The restaurant needs a Sociavore account and they can link out to a microsite with digital gift cards — no need to rebuild (or build) a full website to accommodate this.

Online restaurant ordering provider ChowNow is working on a new gift card initiative for restaurants, CEO Chris Webb told me. He expects it will take two weeks to launch. Details to come.

Some positivity:

1. If you’re not following chef Massimo Bottura on Instagram, get there. He’s started nightly “Quarantine Kitchen” episodes — about 10 minutes of live-streamed cooking from his home kitchen in Modena, Italy, where he’s quarantined with his family. What started as his daughter filming his home kitchen endeavors quickly escalated into a daily ritual complete with walk-up music and cameos from his son and dog. I watch it every night before bed after too many hours of reading the news. Sweet dreams, indeed.

2. “Being a new independent restaurant, things have always been tough — so we’re well-practiced at rolling with the punches.” That’s what chef Anthony Strong of San Francisco’s Prairie told me last week. Over the weekend, he spun up a meal kit service (think: heat and eat, not ingredient prep) and a general store operating out of his Mission district restaurant where he’ll sell shelf-stable goods. (Only one customer is allowed on the “floor” at a time!) Restaurant industry workers get 10 percent off of everything with a paystub.

3. The Canlis story out of Seattle has made its rounds. ICYMI: the fine dining restaurant closed, redeploying its staff to a number of different projects aimed to safely feed the public and keep workers employed. It’s a feel-good story, inspirational to the entire industry from what has become the epicenter of the virus in the U.S. It’s also not something that every business can replicate, and I think that’s important to remember. There are businesses that have the resources and backing and clout to deploy programs like these quickly, to a flurry of press. There are many others who do not, and will likely not weather this storm.

More soon! Take care, and solidarity to all my fellow work-from-home parents



Expedite is produced by Kristen Hawley, a San Francisco-based journalist with over six years of experience covering the restaurant technology industry. Previous iterations of this content were available via Chefs+Tech and Skift Table. Thanks for reading.

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