Cuboh Gears Up for Digital Product Launches, Overseas Expansion

When COVID-19 closed down restaurant dining rooms, it forced restaurants to adapt to a new digital world. That opened up a range of new possibilities, from simple marketing to ghost kitchens and virtual restaurant brands, but it also created a new set of headaches. Orders now come in from disparate channels instead of just in-house, and operators suddenly needed to maintain multiple digital storefronts, instead of just their physical one. 

One company helping restaurants contend with the digital shift is Cuboh. The Victoria, British Columbia-based company makes products that route all digital orders through the POS system and allows restaurants to edit their menus on all the different delivery marketplaces with just a few clicks of a button. 

“Right place, right time,”  is how Juan Orrego, Cuboh’s founder and CEO, explained his firm’s success. It launched publicly in 2019 and went through Y-Combinator, the prestigious startup accelerator, later that year. Barely half a year after Cuboh exited the accelerator, COVID-19 arrived in North America, sending demand for delivery and delivery support products such as Cuboh’s skyrocketing. 

“The online ordering problem is way more than just integrating an order,” said Orrego, and he views Cuboh’s other offerings as key points of distinction for the company. Nowhere is that more true than for ghost kitchens, which often don’t even have a physical storefront to fall back on. They often operate multiple brands out of the same kitchen and, as a result, have a much wider digital presence than the average restaurant. That multiplies the administrative headache of maintaining accurate menus and, if they have multiple locations, that headache multiplies again. 

Multi-brand operators often do significantly more volume than a traditional restaurant, which Orrego explained leads to a greater need to adjust the menu on the fly. “They run out of things more quickly,” and need to be able to pull their chicken tenders off their menu if and when they run out of chicken before any additional customers have the opportunity to order it. 

While ghost kitchens may be bearing the brunt of the digital headaches, “traditional restaurants are digitizing their operations” and following right on their heels, said Orrego. Ultimately, his goal is to have Cuboh help restaurants manage all aspects of their digital presence, and he said the company plans to unveil several new products in 2022. 

In addition to launching new products, Cuboh will explore an overseas expansion to Europe or South America in the coming years. Although the company has admittedly not come close to saturating the North American market, Orrego said he was concerned about competitors making moves in foreign markets and getting too far ahead. 

That’s a concern straight out of Y-Combinator. He credits the company’s time there with turning Cuboh into a “real organization,” and said one of his biggest learnings from the three-month program was how much the speed at which you’re expanding relative to your peers is an incredibly important metric. 

While the past two years have been good to Cuboh, they’ve also given rise to one of the company’s biggest challenges: the labor shortage.

“Restaurants want to buy our product, but they don’t have time to be onboarded,” said Orrego. “It’s nothing we can control,” which is likely the most frustrating part. 

While the need for delivery integration services is obvious now, Cuboh began almost by accident. Orrego said he founded the company after he was fired from an internship he needed to graduate from college and couldn’t find another on short notice. 

For the first four months, Orrego focused on building an analytics product for restaurants, and it wasn’t until he started having in-depth conversations with restaurateurs that he realized the need for delivery integration services. Even in 2017, the need was so great that Orrego said he was able to sign two restaurants up at “like $50 a month” before he even started working on the product.

“I didn’t know how to write a single line of code,” he recalled. “I was up at 4 AM for six months learning how to code.” Working with a team of overseas developers, it took Orrego seven months to build a stable, restaurant-ready product.

“My code, however, isn’t very good,” he continued. The company had to rewrite that early version before launching publicly in 2019. Since then, the firm has grown from two employees to more than 60, while meal delivery sales grew by more than 300 percent over a similar timeframe, according to Edison Trends.


Waitr adds chief technology officer as it expands into new verticals

  • Waitr has named Timothy Newton as its chief technology officer, the company announced Tuesday. Newton served as CTO at Fat Tuesday & New Orleans Original Daiquiris. Before that, Newton was vice president of global technology operations at Papa John’s.
  • Newton led the implementation of a new point-of-sale system across 40 Fat Tuesday locations and developed performance improvement processes and service-level metrics for Papa John’s domestic online ordering system.
  • This executive appointment coincides with Waitr’s growth in new markets and verticals. He appears to be Waitr’s first CTO.

Dive Insight:

Newton will likely play a critical role as Waitr rebrands itself to ASAP later this year. The rebrand will emphasize the company’s expansion into delivery verticals outside of restaurants, including cannabis and alcohol. Waitr is also focused on growing its virtual kitchen footprint, and announced a partnership with Virtual Dining Concepts earlier in January.

Waitr’s larger rivals have relied on chief technology officers to develop solutions to the challenging logistical problems that come with third-party restaurant delivery and additional verticals like grocery. DoorDash’s co-founder Andy Fang is also the company’s first CTO. Uber has not yet replaced its CTO, who left in September 2021.

Newton’s previous experience should be advantageous for Waitr. His work spearheading a new POS system at Fat Tuesday dovetails with Waitr’s acquisition of Cova, a cannabis dispensary POS company. Waitr also recently announced a partnership with Flow Payments to create a compliant marketplace, delivery and payment solution for dispensaries selling cannabis. As ASAP, Waitr plans to expand into payment solutions.

Waitr has also been busy integrating different POS technologies, such as Olo and Harbortouch, as it adds restaurant partners.

Newton’s familiarity with Papa John’s vast digital infrastructure could also be a benefit. The pizza chain has long been a delivery leader, introducing online ordering in 2001. Since partnering with third-party aggregators, Papa John’s digital mix has reached about 70%.

Newton’s tenure at Papa John’s saw the company’s online ordering system achieve 99.99% uptime, according to a press release. Such reliability could be an advantage as competition in the foodservice delivery market intensifies.

“Tim has a dynamic skillset, and we are eager to tap into his wealth of knowledge,” Waitr CEO Carl Grimstad said in a statement. “The credibility, expertise and insight he’s gained through previous employment with well-known companies should benefit us as we plan to move into multiple delivery verticals.”


ItsaCheckmate expands partnership with Grubhub

ItsaCheckmate, a technology provider for streamlining digital orders and menus, is expanding its partnership with online food delivery marketplace Grubhub.

As part of the improved experience for restaurant owners, ItsaCheckmate added Grubhub to its line of digital ordering platforms, making it easy for restaurant staff to manage their Grubhub menus and orders in one spot, according to a press release.

ItsaCheckmate can help restaurateurs using Grubhub save time and costs of labor while reducing order errors. ItsaCheckmate automatically ingests digital orders and prints them out just like in-house orders, negating the need for busy staff to manually punch in orders from a tablet into the POS. ItsaCheckmate eliminates the need for tablets altogether, as it allows staff to manage digital menus directly from their Point of Sale system. Menu changes are reflected on ordering platforms like Grubhub almost instantaneously.

“We’re excited about our enhanced integration with Grubhub, making it easier than ever for restaurants to streamline their menus and orders directly within their existing Point of Sale systems,” Vishal Agarwal, founder and CEO of ItsaCheckmate, said in the release. “We are fortunate to be working with such a professional team who are as passionate as we are about helping restaurants succeed. We look forward to continuing to grow this partnership.”

“We are constantly hearing from our restaurant operators that they are busier now than ever before and that streamlining operations on one POS is crucial for the success of their front of house operations,” Steven Delzell, director, restaurant integration partnerships at Grubhub, said in the release. “With this integration, restaurants can spend more time focusing on delivering a better 360° customer experience knowing that any menu changes or updates that are made will be reflected quickly and accurately on their Grubhub managed channels.”

“Partnering with ItsaCheckmate and Grubhub has transformed our ability to provide even better service, especially for our delivery operations. In a world that has been characterized by chaos, their common sense approach to integrate delivery systems with our Point of Sale has allowed us to do what we do best — satisfy our customer’s cravings for hot and tasty food. In addition to the stable technology, the service levels offered by ItsaCheckmate team has helped us stay on top of everything delivery,” Steve Foreman, director, operations services for White Castle Management Co., said in the release.

Grubhub joins ItsaCheckmate’s growing family of restaurant ordering platform integrations, currently 75-plus platform-strong. ItsaCheckmate’s 10,000-plus global restaurant clients include small “mom-and-pops” to major chains like Arby’s, Five Guys, and Buffalo Wild Wings.


Just Eat Takeaway shifts to a lower gear

Growth at Just Eat Takeaway has slowed down considerably over the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, the meal delivery company is gradually pedalling towards profit: the margin will still be negative this year – but only just.

1.1 billion orders

Just Eat Takeaway received a third more orders in 2021 and reached the one billion mark: in total, the company received 1.1 billion orders last year, worth 28.1 billion euros. However, the meal delivery company had to shift down a gear during the fourth quarter: the growth in the number of orders was “only” 14 %. The easing of the Covid measures meant that more people went out to eat in restaurants instead of having their meals delivered to their homes.

CEO Jitse Groen is nevertheless satisfied, as the company did manage to improve profitability in the second half of the year. Just Eat Takeaway also expects to increase its profit margin in 2022. According to Groen, 2021 was the year in which losses peaked: in 2022, the EBITDA margin should be between – 0.6 % and – 0.8 %.

Increasingly more groceries

The meal delivery company also expects to strengthen its market positions further this year. Last year, the company entered into several partnerships with supermarket chains to deliver groceries for them. In the United Kingdom, Just Eat Takeaway is making deliveries for Asda and One Stop, and in Canada, a ‘dark store’ model is being rolled out. In the United States, subsidiary Grubhub even launched a whole new division for delivering groceries: Grubhub Goods already collaborates with Instacart and 7-Eleven, and they are on the lookout for more partners.

Finally, Groen emphasises he welcomes the European Commission’s plan to oblige courier companies to offer employees social protection and a secure status. Given that Just Eat Takeaway already employs tens of thousands of couriers in the European Union, the management believes the company will benefit from this legislation, they say, nudging in the direction of their competitors.


Just Eat Takeaway maintains 2022 forecasts as orders climb

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Just Eat, Europe’s largest meal delivery company, reported a 14% increase in orders in the fourth quarter on Wednesday in line with expectations and maintained its financial forecasts for 2022.

In a trading update, the company said it had delivered 273.7 million orders in the fourth quarter of last year, up from 240.4 million in the same period of 2020.

Chief Executive Jitse Groen repeated that Takeaway expected orders to increase and losses to fall in 2022 but stopped short of forecasting it would break even on an operating basis this year, unlike German rival Delivery Hero which said on Tuesday it would do so in the second half.

“We’re not targeting profitability, we’ve given out a slight loss range for this year,” Groen said.

Takeaway has come under pressure from investors to sell operations, including U.S. subsidiary Grubhub, to reduce its operating losses as the boost it received from increased orders during the COVID-19 pandemic has begun to fade.

Takeaway’s shares have fallen 12% so far in 2022 and were down 1.4% at 42.57 euros at 0824 GMT on Tuesday, far below their all-time high above 109 euros hit in October 2020.

After rapid growth during the pandemic, European food delivery firms such as Takeaway, Deliveroo and Delivery Hero are bracing for consolidation and more competition from a new generation of fast grocery and delivery companies.

Groen said losses would be driven by continued investment in its delivery network in Britain, where it owns Just Eat.

He said the company was continuing to negotiate over the sale of its one-third stake in iFood, Brazil’s largest meal delivery company.

On Grubhub, which has lost market share since Takeaway bought it for $7.3 billion in June last year, he said: “We are open to improvements … that can be a partner and it can be something else that improves that business.”

Takeaway reports full-year earnings on March 2.


Waitr will rebrand to ASAP, cannabis will be a key focus

  • Waitr will rebrand to ASAP later this year to emphasize the company’s involvement in delivery verticals outside of restaurants, Waitr CEO Carl Grimstad said during a presentation at the ICR 2022 Conference on Tuesday. 
  • Cannabis will be a key element of the company’s differentiation from delivery rivals. The aggregator is poised to succeed in the cannabis payment processing market by providing a software solution capable of assisting with compliance, inventory management and payments, Grimstad said. 
  • Waitr recently announced its intent to acquire two cannabis dispensary POS companies, Cova and Flow Payments. Grimstad said he hopes these acquisitions will make Waitr a key player in cannabis delivery as markets open up and restrictions ease.

Dive Insight:

The cannabis market presents a good opportunity for Waitr despite fragmented regulatory permissions, Grimstad said. He compared the market to the early days of e-commerce, when companies faced significant constraints, including banks that were unwilling to work with e-commerce firms, underdeveloped technology and payment processing challenges. 

“We… continue to see those similarities in the cannabis vertical. So think of it just like any other retail environment, right? You need a payment solution,” Grimstad said.

Grimstad predicts that the federal government is likely to legalize the sale of marijuana in the future, and that cannabis payments and delivery will then be commoditized. 

“But what will [also] be commoditized is the software…the software will be the foundation of our solution within the cannabis space,” he said. 

Waitr’s focus on payments software and delivery verticals, including cannabis and convenience store products, will allow the company to grow without competing head-to-head with Doordash, Uber Eats and Grubhub, Grimstad said.

“We are going to have to be more than just the fourth player in food delivery in the U.S.,” Grimstad said. “We had to change the narrative.”

Waitr’s restaurant business is still growing. The company adds 1,000 new restaurants a month, with a focus primarily on independent restaurants, Grimstad said. During Waitr’s Q2 earnings call, Grimstad said the company was partnering with brands like Applebee’s and KFC so that it doesn’t lose delivery customers to its larger competitors, which work closely with major chains. 

But while Uber Eats and DoorDash have worked to diversify the delivery  channel by experimenting with proprietary ghost kitchen offerings and virtual brands, Waitr will remain focused on just providing delivery services and payment processing software to partner restaurants. 

“Our whole pitch is we’re not going to open ghost kitchens,” Grimstad said. “We’re not going to open our own pizza or chicken wings business. We’re going to be your solution, Mr. Merchant… it has to be really more of a merchant services solution rather than just food delivery.”

Grimstad predicted the major delivery firms would eventually expand into restaurant operations, while adding other verticals, powered by the data they collect from their restaurant clients and retailers.

“Whether you’re a big restaurant, services operator, or some other big retailer at the end of the day, they’re giving their customers and their customers data to a third-party every day. Right? And ultimately, what do you think’s going to happen?” Grimstad asked. “The guys are way too smart at the Doordashes and the Ubers of the world to lose money delivering prepared foods forever.


Waitr Names Restaurant Industry Veteran Timothy Newton Chief Technology Officer

LAFAYETTE, La.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Waitr Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: WTRH) (“Waitr” or the “Company”), a leader in on-demand food ordering and delivery, announced today that Timothy Newton has been named Chief Technology Officer. Mr. Newton brings more than two decades of information technology experience to the position, including stints at Papa John’s International and Fat Tuesday.

Most recently, Mr. Newton was chief technology officer at Fat Tuesday & New Orleans Original Daiquiris where he was responsible for strategic direction and execution of the company’s technology modernization efforts and standards. He also spearheaded the evaluation, selection and implementation of a new point-of-sale solution across 40 corporate locations, providing needed visibility to key store operational metrics.

While at Papa John’s International, Mr. Newton served as vice president, global technology operations, heading the tactical direction and deployment of mission critical technology infrastructure across 3200+ domestic and 1200+ international restaurants. His work included developing performance improvement processes and service level metrics for their domestic online ordering system, achieving 99.99% uptime.

“Tim has a dynamic skillset, and we are eager to tap into his wealth of knowledge,” said Carl Grimstad, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Waitr, in today’s announcement. “The credibility, expertise and insight he’s gained through previous employment with well-known companies should benefit us as we plan to move into multiple delivery verticals.”

“I am thrilled to join Waitr at this exciting time in the delivery business,” Newton said. “I look forward to helping Waitr grow and strengthen its position in the U.S. market by bringing a passionate, innovative, and collaborative technology focused vision to the job, providing real business value through strategic IT alignment.”


NEWPORT FOOD SCENE: Meal delivery is here to stay, so be kind, be patient and tip well

Now that we are in the heart of winter and dealing with the usual mayhem of New England weather (snow, rain, gale force winds, nor’easters, etc.), we need to take a moment to celebrate an unheralded hero: food delivery drivers.

Through it all, they are willing to brave the elements, guided only by their guile and cell phones, so we can enjoy a delicious meal in the warm coziness of our own homes. Whenever and wherever the call for food rings, they answer.

They dutifully hop into their cars, carefully pack our orders in insulated protection and trudge their way through the savagery of Aquidneck Island roads just to bring us what we ordered.

I, for one, am grateful. 

Have you ever looked out the window on a stormy day. You see puddles splashing, trees bending in the wind, leaves and branches tumbling about. That’s when you think to yourself, “There’s no way I’m going out in this weather.” But you know your delivery driver will, and for some reason, we’re OK with that. We feel bad making someone else drive in that weather, but if we’re hungry enough, we can rationalize it.

Delivery has never been an easy gig. People wanting their food fast. Bosses hurrying you to get to the next delivery. There are order mix ups. There are accidents and traffic. There are people who don’t answer the door. And that was before the pandemic.

When the pandemic hit, out of necessity, it suddenly became the golden age of delivery. Restaurants had to find a way to get people their food so they naturally turned to delivery options. Then we all got used to the convenience of it. Now, even though you can eat at the restaurant or pick up your orders, people are still asking for delivery options.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

That’s a lot of responsibility to fall upon the delivery drivers. Suddenly, they have to be everywhere. So, because they deserve it, let’s be extra nice to them.

Don’t blame delays on the delivery driver. They’re just doing their route. They have no evil plot to delay your delivery. They’re just busy. If you are using a delivery service like GrubHub or DoorDash, the drivers have to go to the restaurant, wait for your order, grab it and then deliver to your home. They could have extra stops along the way, too.

But you can watch their progress on the phone apps. You can see they’re not dawdling. When your order gets there, just be grateful. And try not to delay the driver, either. They are on a schedule. If you are keeping them at your house so you can unpack every item to inspect for quality, you’re the complication.

Expect that your order will take at least 45 minutes for delivery. We know if you ordered the same thing at the restaurant, you could get it in 10 minutes. But that’s not how this works. If a restaurant is busy, adding a delivery order to the mix is never easy. It’s different plating, different timing, different finishing.

It takes preparation and cooking time before it even lands in a delivery vehicle. Just be patient. There’s one place in town that if you order on the weekend, they give you an immediate estimate on delivery of 90 minutes. Seems like a lot, but it’s worth it.

It takes planning. Order earlier. Or, just expect the wait. If it shows up in 60 minutes, you’re happily surprised. The days of 30 minutes or it’s free are over. Again, that’s not your driver’s fault.

Being grateful for your driver’s efforts is nice, but it doesn’t pay the bills. Be sure you are leaving a tip for your driver. Ordering from websites and phone apps is super convenient, but some sites make the area where you tip hard to find. So find it. Make the effort to seek out the tipping section under payment and fill in the appropriate tip before clicking “place my order.” Your order is not complete without it.

And don’t get it confused with delivery fees. If it’s a fee, it goes to the restaurant or the service, not the driver. Tipping the driver shouldn’t be optional. It’s their livelihood. So be generous. And if you’re OK with contact delivery, cash tips are always accepted.

These days, we should all appreciate the convenience of delivery, especially in a pandemic-stricken world. Being able to enjoy all the best foods in town in the comfort of our own homes is a gift, especially on those cold and wintry nights when we don’t want to leave the house.

We’re lucky to have people willing to drive through it all just to make us happy. Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night keeps these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. We see you delivery drivers, and we are grateful for your hard work.


Olo CEO Noah Glass: Three Predictions for 2022

Olo CEO Noah Glass shared his three top predictions for 2022 as the company embarks on its first full year as a public company.

Aside from going public, Glass and Olo (NYSE: OLO) had a pretty good year as one of the go-to enterprise solutions for omnichannel restaurant transactions. He wrapped up 2021 and looked ahead during the 2022 ICR conference, which was held virtually for another year amid the omicron surge.

The pandemic, while ugly, drove a lot of enterprise restaurant brands to rethink their technology stack. Several, Glass said, re-platformed to Olo from their homegrown systems. Potbelly, CKE and Bloomin’ Brands all jumped from their self-built systems. Glass looks to the big Panera investment in digital as the reason for those moves.

“They spent $42 million in capex [capital expenditures], and that was the big number. The biggest thing was the operational expenses, they needed a large team to support the thing,” said Glass.

He has been saying there’s value in outsourcing off-premises technology for years. What was once an economic argument has become an argument around scale and integration.

“There’s no way any individual customer could build Olo Dispatch or our other platform-level innovations,” he said. “When you’re doing something on behalf of 76,000 restaurants, stack that up with any large restaurant brand and it’s triple or quadruple [the] scale of any chain. That’s what brings partners to the table and what the aggregators come for.”

Olo also helped launch more than 50 virtual restaurants, including the explosive MrBeast Burger and Goop. It acquired Wisely to go deeper on one-to-one marketing and customer engagement. It also leaned into QR payments and new modes of service that help restaurants cater to customer demands and manage through historic staffing issues.

With the volatile year in the rearview mirror, Glass had three big predictions for 2022.

QSR goes digital this year

“Serial processing of cars is getting a long-overdue makeover,” said Glass.

By that, he means taking an order, preparing the food and handing it out a window for every car is a process that has largely been untouched for decades and it has become a serious bottleneck with modern consumer habits. Technology, he says, is essential to ingest orders from everywhere and direct consumers to the right spot, be it curbside parking spot, a digital drive-thru or a pickup shelf.

Taking those orders has historically been a mashup of third-party tools and workarounds to bypass tired technologies.

“There’s still a ton of QSR brands that are only digital though indirect marketplaces and don’t have a direct-to-consumer offering. That is a fundamental thing to put in place,” said Glass.

Taking on a new off-premises channel is much easier with fully digitized infrastructure, but things like AI chatbots or the drones, bots and Google orders are nearly impossible without it.

Omnichannel, one screen

All those new channels added strain and complexity to the restaurant. One operator called their delivery staging area a “mosh pit” through the pandemic. That has Glass looking ahead to a year of brands bringing all their digital orders into one screen.

The company launched a product called Expo in 2019 to help people monitor all those channels, but the importance has been elevated by the incredible shift to digital, and it’s become a buzzing product for the company. The big question is who looks at that screen.

“That lives with the host or host stand or lives with the bartender. At Portillo’s, they have a dedicated catering area of the business,” said Glass. “It’s typically a person that is managing a pretty meaningful order volume coming from on-demand channels and not having to scramble around.”

Shift to single platform

In his final prediction for the year, Glass sees more brands looking to a single platform for everything digital. He said as big brands try to make sense of the digital transformation, they’re finding a lot of leaky buckets between tools and a lot of wasted time switching between sources of data, not to mention rolling it all into actionable data.

The company has built its own tools like the delivery bid service Dispatch, but he looks to the Wisely acquisition as the next step to go from operational tools in a silo to connecting everything back to the consumer, their transaction and their lifetime value.

“The leaders in this space will use one platform to understand and serve every customer coming to them,” said Glass. “We see direct digital relationships as the new currency for 2022.”


Flipdish Nabs $100M in Funding

Flipdish, an online ordering and digital experience platform for the hospitality space, received a $100 million investment led by Tencent raising its valuation to more than $1.25 billion. This comes after the Dublin-based company received a $48.5 million investment from Tiger Global Management nearly a year ago.

The investment will be used to grow global operations, fund R&D in products that improve the hospitality industry’s digital experience for consumers, and support new customers like hotels, stadiums, movie theaters and airports.

Founded by brothers Conor and James McCarthy in 2015, Flipdish powers QR code ordering and payment at the table, online ordering for pick-up and delivery, self-service kiosks, customer loyalty programs, and digital marketing.

“Digitization has been transforming the hospitality sector for years,” said Conor McCarthy, Flipdish co-founder and CEO. “The ongoing pandemic has further accelerated the trend with hospitality businesses becoming increasingly dependent on digital experiences to attract and retain customers. Our investment will help us to empower more hospitality businesses around the world to grow with the best-in-class technology.”

Tencent will join existing Flipdish investors Tiger Global, Global Founders Capital, Elkstone, Enterprise Ireland and Growing Capital.

Flipdish operates in 25 countries, including the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom, with thousands of independent restaurant customers as well as major brands, such as All Day Kitchens and Popchew.

As part of the investment, Flipdish will be hiring 700 people in 2022. The majority are technology roles such as software architects, data scientists, engineers, and product designers. Others include a host of commercial roles.