No time for high fives: Grateful ChowNow sees somber sales surge as restaurants pushed to online ordering for survival

Takeout, curbside, no matter the name, nearly 50 Kansas City area restaurants are now serving it up to customers with support from food ordering app ChowNow. 

“We’re grateful that we’re in position to help, but it is also very scary for a lot of people out there and we need to recognize that,” Chris Webb, ChowNow CEO, explained of the company’s explosive growth amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, click here to read about ChowNow’s Kansas City office, opened in 2019. 

In an era of pandemic, corner restaurants around the world have quickly shifted their sales strategy, forced to embrace online ordering platforms in their fight for survival, Webb noted. 

“We typically bring on a few hundred restaurant clients per month and now we’re talking about thousands of restaurant clients per month,” he said, noting the demand has been overwhelming but gratifying. 

To keep up with such a sales volume, ChowNow has brought on temporary workers — many who have lost their jobs as a result of the health crisis, noted Candice Taylor, director of recruiting. 

Just shy of 20 temporary workers have joined ChowNow’s Kansas City team in recent weeks, Taylor said, noting some are family members of her colleagues.

“Everything’s in flux, but we need help and people need work and a paycheck,” Webb said of the decision to grow ChowNow’s team during unsteady economic times. 

The experience of reacting to the global health scare, overall, has been a sobering one for Webb and the 260-person ChowNow team. 

“In normal times, if the sales team signed up the amount of restaurants that are signing up now, there’d be high fives, congratulations and all these things. This is not the time for that,” he said, expressing gratitude for his team who is working 18-hour days, seven days a week in order to keep up with customer demand. 

Part of such delivery includes shifting roles, Webb added. 

“It feels like organized chaos right now,” he laughed. “But luckily for us, most of the people in our client-facing teams started at the company on our onboarding team. … When the numbers started to pick up and then eventually just spike, we quickly shifted as many people onto the onboarding team.”

The move ultimately doubled the size of the startup’s onboarding team in just a couple of days, Webb said, adding a new restaurant can now be live on the platform in a matter of days, whereas it took weeks before COVID-19 hit. 

“We’re doing demos and getting on the phone very early in the morning to very late at night and that includes on the weekends as well. … Our entire sales team is manning the phones. The best thing [a restaurant owner could do] is fill out the form on our website and you can expect to hear from us very quickly,” he said, noting the company hopes it can deliver impact to some of the nation’s hardest hit businesses. 

“The amount of restaurants that are just grateful these days is so touching to our team. We’re sharing a lot of internal quotes from clients that we’re hearing in restaurants being onboarded. They’re just grateful that we’re able to help, which is a good feeling.”

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