Waitr’s Partnership With Olo Underscores the Delivery Service’s Mainstream Ambitions

It was only a matter of time before companies started addressing the problem of how to help restaurants process third-party delivery orders without throwing an extra device or three at them, a situation otherwise known as “tablet hell.”

Right on the heels of a similar deal with Uber Eats, restaurant-tech platform Olo has teamed up with delivery service Waitr to do just that. According to a press release sent today, the two companies have partnered to allow direct integration of all Waitr/Bite Squad orders into a restaurant partners’ POS systems through Olo’s Rails technology.

Rails transmits orders coming from third-party sales channels like delivery apps directly into a restaurant POS system. This is in stark contrast to how restaurants have typically taken orders from third-party delivery apps. Historically, a restaurant would have to designate someone on staff to manually input those orders from a tablet provided by the delivery service into the main POS system — the aforementioned tablet hell scenario. As I wrote in January, when Olo nabbed an $18 million investment, “Olo doesn’t compete with third-party delivery services; it more or less partners with them, so DoorDash or Grubhub orders placed via Olo go right into the regular queue of tickets, without an employee having to manually input them.”

By partnering with Olo, Waitr will be able to offer all of its restaurant partners this kind of streamlined processing for delivery orders, which saves restaurants time, money, and, very basically, physical space in the restaurants.

Interestingly, Olo’s tech platform is typically aimed at larger chains: it counts Denny’s, Five Guys, and Chipotle among its growing list of customers. Waitr has up to this point focused on serving smaller U.S. cities and emphasizing the local aspect of its business. But the company recently became the center of a lot of bad press when it announced adjustments to its terms and fee structure for restaurants, which take a higher commission from restaurants with smaller sales volumes. In most cases those would be smaller, independent restaurants. While the new terms sparked protests in some of Waitr’s markets, they went through on August 1. Waitr hasn’t directly stated its focus has shifted to prioritizing bigger brands and restaurant partners, but as the restaurant biz goes, it’s typically the smaller shops who will have a hard time managing the new fee structure and may not be able to continue using Waitr’s service.

The partnership with Olo seems to further affirm that direction. “This direct connection into our partners’ order stream is delivering on our commitment to be the most valued partner for restaurants,” Waitr CEO Chris Meaux said in the press release statement. Apparently only if you’re Denny’s or Five guys, though.

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