ezCater Solves Tax Exemption on Workplace Food for Top Nonprofits Nationwide

ezCater, the most trusted provider of corporate food solutions, today announced a new tax-exempt ordering platform for nonprofit organizations. With ezCater, organizations set their tax-exempt status once and it automatically applies to catering orders from over 95,000 restaurants on the ezCater platform, saving them time and money.

Ensuring catering orders are tax-exempt is complicated and time-consuming for nonprofits, requiring each person to file a tax certificate with every restaurant that they order from. This is even more complicated for organizations that order food across multiple states.

“We’ve taken something that should be simple and made it simple,” says Diane Swint, Chief Demand Officer at ezCater. “Nonprofits have many important things to worry about, and this solution allows them to put time back into their missions, instead of wasting it on unnecessary paperwork.”

“ezCater makes handling the tax-exemption process for my team an easy feat,” said Matthew Boone, Head Coach of Track and Field at Jacksonville State University. “Keeping track of paper receipts and creating multiple expense reports was such a headache. Not only do I have peace of mind that ezCater is storing the information for me, but my team has easy access to high-quality meals on the road.”

The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a nonprofit that supports children, teens, and young adults with rare and serious diseases by providing a free ‘place like home’ for them to stay while participating in clinical research trials. The Inn has selected ezCater to order meals for the families. However, meeting various dietary restrictions and avoiding food waste becomes complicated. With ezCater, meals arrive individually selected, packaged and labeled, and The Inn’s tax-exempt status is automatically applied to every order.

“Our job is to serve and provide support to families during some of the most difficult times of their lives,” said Emily Johnson, Family Program Operations Manager for The Children’s Inn at NIH. “ezCater’s ability to automate tasks like ordering each meal and researching restaurants that accept our tax exemption allows my team to focus on what really matters.”

With an ezCater Corporate Account, businesses have easy access to all products within ezCater’s suite of corporate solutions. This includes features like invoicing, custom checkout and reporting, organization-wide tax-exempt ordering, recurring employee meals, and concierge food ordering.

more

DOORDASH ADDS REVIEWS, FOOD RATINGS TO APP

The new tools are intended to ease “decision fatigue” for customers.

DoorDash reviews interface

Customers will be able to write reviews and give star ratings in the DoorDash app. / Image courtesy of DoorDash

DoorDash is adding new features to its app in hopes of easing “decision fatigue” for hungry customers.

They include written reviews, food ratings and curated lists of local restaurants. The new tools coincide with the launch of DoorDash’s Top 100 Most Loved local restaurants, which were recognized for on-time and accurate service as well as for their food.

“We’re always thinking about how we can make the shopping experience even more frictionless and relevant for our customers,” said Helena Seo, head of design at DoorDash, in a statement. Here’s a look at each of the new tools.

Written reviews

Customers will be able to leave reviews as well as star ratings of restaurants they’ve ordered from, allowing other customers as well as restaurants to view feedback. 

DoorDash said reviews will help improve customer satisfaction, menu quality, adoption and retention. 

While reviews may be helpful for customers, they can make restaurants uneasy to say the least. According to an FAQ page on DoorDash’s website, customers will have the option to make their review public or private. Public reviews will show up on a restaurant’s DoorDash page with the most recent reviews at the top. Reviews will be moderated by DoorDash to make sure that they’re relevant. Notably, reviews about the delivery experience provided by a DoorDash driver will not be posted, according to the FAQ.

Restaurants will also be able to respond to both public and private reviews within seven days of receiving them.DoorDash app ratings

GIFs courtesy of DoorDash

Item ratings

When a customer orders food on DoorDash, they will be able to rate each item with a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” icon. A restaurant’s three items with the most thumbs up will appear on their menu with a “most liked” tag. DoorDash said this feature will save customers a total of 400,000 hours annually as they decide what to order. Since introducing the feature, customers have used the thumbs to weigh in on an average of 2.5 million items a week.

Restaurants aren’t allowed to opt out of this feature, according to the FAQ.

Top 10 lists

Customer reviews and ratings will contribute to a series of Top 10 lists that will rank things like best new restaurants or top breakfast spots. The lists are “dynamic and ever-evolving,” DoorDash wrote, and incorporate consumer feedback as well as hours, order volume and distance from the customer.DoorDash app Top 10 lists

The new features come as DoorDash has been reinforcing its position as the No. 1 delivery provider in the U.S. As for its competitors, Uber Eats and Grubhub, both allow customers to leave feedback to varying degrees. Uber Eats users can leave a star rating but there are no public reviews. Grubhub customers can post public reviews along with star ratings.

more

On-demand delivery app Waitr adds 700 7-Eleven stores

Waitr has long been in the shadows of giants.

The forgotten sibling of Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 2013 before spreading quickly across the American South. But with less than a 1% share of the U.S. food delivery market today, Waitr (NASDAQ: WTRH) is looking to ditch restaurant deliveries in favor of non-restaurant verticals — like convenience stores.

This week, Waitr announced that it would be delivering items from over 700 7-Eleven stores across the country. It’s the first national convenience store Waitr has added to its merchant catalog.

Per the agreement, Waitr will deliver items for 7-Eleven along with Bite Squad and Delivery Dudes, two food delivery startups that Waitr acquired for just over $320 million in 2018 and about $23 million in 2021, respectively.

“The addition of 7-Eleven to our platform represents the newest example of our ongoing commitment to expand into new delivery verticals,” said Carl Grimstad, Waitr CEO and chairman of the board. “This partnership creates a new level of convenience for our customers. Effective immediately, we will be able to deliver your favorite food and snacks from hundreds of 7-Eleven locations directly to you.”



Waitr operates in over 1,000 U.S. cities, including the 90-plus it added to its platform in 2021. The app boasts more than 26,000 participating merchants, but the vast majority of them are restaurants.

To reinforce its shift away from restaurants, Waitr plans to rebrand as ASAP later this year. Grimstad told Restaurant Dive that the company would be targeting cannabis delivery in particular as it looks to compete with the big three food delivery apps outside of their core verticals.

“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.”

A complex array of regulatory frameworks that vary by state, county and even municipality govern the cannabis delivery space. But the Waitr CEO still sees it as an attractive play. Grimstad compared the nascent cannabis delivery industry to the early days of food delivery, when platforms suffered from underdeveloped technology and payment processing issues.



“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,” he said.

Grimstad has already put his money where his mouth is. Last August, Waitr acquired a trio of e-commerce payment processing companies, ProMerchant, Cape Cod Merchant Services and Flow Payments, which builds marketplace, delivery and payment solutions for cannabis dispensaries. It also bought cannabis-focused point of sale platform Cova in December.

The philosophy at Waitr is not to bite off more than it can chew. Not only will the company move away from restaurants — it will also keep its distance from ghost kitchens and virtual brands, like those on platforms such as DoorDash (NYSE: DASH). Instead, it will continue to provide delivery services and payment processing software to its merchant partners.

Still, it’s taken a few pages out of the big three’s playbook. In 2019, Waitr laid off all of its 2,300 drivers, swapping hourly pay for the independent contractor model used by delivery apps like Uber Eats (NYSE: UBER). But that’s where the similarities end — at least in Grimstad’s eyes.

“Our whole pitch is we’re not going to open ghost kitchens,” he 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.”

more

Will.i.am Joins Nextbite as Partnership Advisor

Nextbite announced that producer and tech entrepreneur will.i.am joined the company as advisor focused on brand building and marketing strategies for its delivery-only restaurant concepts.

In a press release announcing the news, Nextbite said the music producer and Black Eyed Peas frontman’s music career necessitates ordering delivery on the road and while in-studio, adding that he was often frustrated by the lack of flavorful and nutritious meals available for delivery. As a proponent for healthy living, will.i.am decided to partner with the LA-based company to help it bring a new range of diverse options to diners across the  country.

Related to his new role with Nextbite, will.i.am is a strict vegan and an advocate for the benefits of a plant-based diet and maintaining an active lifestyle which aligns well with Nextbite’s growing virtual concept menus that include vegan, Mediterranean and Asian options.

“Nextbite has the right combination of technology and varied menu choices that are key to redefining the digital restaurant industry,” said will.i.am, now formally Entertainment Industry Partnership Advisor at Nextbite. “While on tour and making music in-studio, I’ve eaten a lot of lukewarm, unhealthy delivered meals. The time is right for innovation in quality menus and delivery options.”

“A key ingredient in Nextbite’s growth and momentum is thanks to the expert guidance of advisors, and will.i.am brings keen futurist insights and connections into the evolving music and entertainment segment,” said Nextbite co-founder and CEO Alex Canter.

The performer’s work for Nextbite is only his latest business initiative, which includes Beats Electronics where he became a founding equity stakeholder. After Beats was purchased by Apple in 2014 for $3 billion, he continued to launch a range of companies focused on software incorporating AI, natural language understanding, voice computing, creativity & productivity, and customer-service functionality, as well as creating consumer-tech gear and apparel.

more

Marc Lore’s Wonder Raises Another $350M

Wonder, a truck-based restaurant delivery service started by Jet.com founder Marc Lore, raised an additional $350 million through a Series B funding round led by Bain Capital just six months after launching the company.

This latest investment follows previous investment rounds totaling more than $500 million dollars. Various media reports pegged the New York-based company’s latest valuation at approximately $3.5 billion after the latest infusion.

In a LinkedIn post announcing the news, Marc Lore said, “It’s pretty special what you can accomplish with a big, bold vision, the best people, and the capital to execute. We’ve made incredible progress over the last six months.”

As we previously reported, Lore said his new businesses (Wonder and Envoy) combine aspects of food trucks, ghost kitchens, and delivery platforms like DoorDash and Uber Eats to create something new in the delivery space.

Wonder allows customers to summon these food trucks to their houses through the app, where the trucks will cook food at the curb.

Lore added that Wonder is now available in 22 towns and to more than 130,000 households, with 19 mobile restaurant chains built from the ground up including Bar Nakazawa, Nancy Silverton’s PIzzeria Mozza, Bobby Flay Steak, Chios Taverna by Michael Symon, Di Fara Pizza and Tejas Barbecue. The company employs more than 1,250 people in New Jersey alone.

In addition to Bain Capital Ventures, new Wonder investors include Forerunner, Amex Ventures, Yieldstreet, Harmony Partners and Watar Partners, among others. Existing investors also participated, including GV, NEA, Accel, General Catalyst and Alpine Group.

“As we look ahead, we’ll stay focused on our mission and vision as we continue to scale within the tri-state area—Bergen County is next on the list!” Lore said in his LinkedIn post. “We are also hard at work launching 11 more restaurants, increasing our total offering to more than 30 mobile restaurant chains by this time next year. And, our innovative techniques, technology, world-class culinary partnerships, and talent opens up so much potential for exciting, new possibilities. Wonder has a real opportunity to not only completely change how people eat, but also to create a better future with access to the world’s best food in a convenient, affordable, and sustainable way.”

more

Zalat Pizza and the Legend of Uber’s First Restaurant Partner

Zalat Pizza founder Khanh Nguyen is a self-professed pizza zealot. Once a lawyer, a tech founder and then a pizza-pie innovator, he’s exceptionally focused on making some of the very best pizzas in the Dallas area. He also thinks of himself as the very first restaurant to partner with Uber.

“We have a lot of pizzas and that’s all we do. Our one appetizer is a pizza. We don’t even want to take the time to do a fountain soda, that will take some time and effort. So we just pull Coke cans out of the cooler and Ben & Jerry’s out of the freezer,” said Nguyen. “It’s all handmade, we’re making 1 million pizzas a year in mass volume. Every single pizza, since we don’t use a conveyor belt, every pizza has a chance for failure or greatness.”

He admitted he has one salad, but it’s all about the pizza at his 20 current locations. Making the paragon Nashville Hot Chicken and Pickles pizza or getting the perfect pesto swirl on the Pesto Veggie is a high-stakes, high-quality endeavor. Nguyen said he spends a lot of money on the best mozzarella, makes all the dough in house and went on a pepperoni pilgrimage to find the ideal all-beef pepperoni.

As for the business model, he tweaked that, too. To get “fanatical buy-in” from his staff of fellow pizza zealots, he offers full benefits, 401(k) for all staff, a company tattoo after a year. He gets a staff comic book made every year, too, with employees as the heroes. But there aren’t any drivers, which is the biggest pivot away from the traditional pizza model.

“We started configuring it like a small pizza shop. We had our own delivery system going in the beginning, we realized right away–within the first week or two– holy smokes, all the chains they’re not pizza companies, they’re delivery companies. Just look at where they spend their money and their focus, because it takes an incredible amount of effort to get those pizzas out the door,” said Nguyen. “We realized right away, if we’re going to be ultra-focused on one product, we can’t have that mission diverted by the greater mission of getting the pizza out the door.”

He started making plans to disentangle Zalat from the delivery business, but back in 2015 and early 2016, there were no options. Uber had just reached Dallas, ferrying people, not pizza. But Nguyen tried, and that’s where the legend of the first Uber restaurant started.

“Whenever we got overloaded, meaning too many deliveries for the drivers we had. I started calling up Uber drivers,” said Nguyen. “We’d walk the pizza out and we’d have a two- to three-minute conversation with them to convince them. We’d talk three of four drivers into it, one of four would cuss us out–we definitely pissed off some drivers.”

It wasn’t a bad ratio, but it didn’t exactly solve his delivery problem. As he tells the story, he reached out to Uber, made the pitch to Uber’s general manager of Texas to deliver food with the network of thousands of drivers. It was a somewhat novel idea back then; it was early days for Postmates, even.

“He took it back to San Francisco, and about three weeks later he said we have this little piece of software to deliver flowers from some shops. We think we can modify it for food delivery and we’re interested in taking you up on your offer to be the alpha on this thing,” said Nguyen.

He said Uber flew in a team to get things going while things were buggy, it was a transformational little piece of software.

“We got started on a Monday, and by Friday, I shut down all our own delivery operations. I switched over to them 100 percent,” said Nguyen. “That was Uber Rush that they created with our help and that became Uber Eats.”

Since being, as he said, Uber’s single restaurant partner for three or four months, he’s used the same model at all his locations.

The timeline is a bit murky for Uber, but Meghan Casserly, head of communications overseeing delivery at Uber, said the legend of Zalat and Uber rings as true as memory serves.

“While tracking sign-ups to the minute is tricky, Zalat Pizza was definitely among the first—if not the very first—restaurant partners in the Dallas Fort Worth area, long before the Uber Eats app existed, and have been valued since day one,” said Casserly. “The original history of what pre-Eats brand name launched where is a matter of company lore (and is often debated!), but the team in Texas prizes Kahnh and the team at Zalat’s longtime partnership, so we’re proud to call them our first.”

When asked for tips to thrive on the third parties, Nguyen said it’s tougher today. Clearly, there are a lot more restaurants on the platform than just him today, but he said the laser focus on quality and great operations is No. 1.

“You’ve gotta be really good. Just like social media rewards eyeballs, the third parties will reward you for having a great product because they want repeat business too. They want a great product and you’ve got to be very, very good from an operational standpoint,” Nguyen added.

He said a successful third-party partner can’t miss items, send out poor quality food. He currently has 4.5 or higher rating at all his locations from customers. He also values the drives and ensures they’re not standing around.

“They can do an extra delivery ever 20 to 30 minutes. If they’re waiting 20 minutes, you’re eating up a huge portion of their driver pay. They track all this stuff and rank you accordingly and will give you certain designations if you’re the best,” said Nguyen.

One very apparent nod from drivers, they line up and idle in front of his restaurants, ready to pounce on the next order.

more

Skipcart, DeliverB4 Push Affordable Delivery Alternative

Hiring an in-house fleet of drivers isn’t the only alternative for restaurants stressed by high fees from large third-party delivery providers. Through a new partnership, Skipcart and DeliverB4 are offering an alternative, outsourced delivery program that claims to save restaurants $2 or more per order.

Pointing to a recent NRA survey showing that 90 percent of restaurants are less profitable than before the pandemic, the newly partnered companies predict that their no-cost startup, 100 percent delivery driver acceptance, full sharing of delivery customer data and no need to change existing technology or operations for its solution is exactly what operators need now that they have time to focus on less urgent matters.

In making the case for using DeliverB4’s software to route meal deliveries to Skipcart’s national fleet of drivers, the two companies describe the existing status quo with third-party delivery providers as a “one-sided relationship” that’s ultimately unhealthy for restaurant operators.

While many companies tout superior economics of hybrid or self-delivery operations using in-house delivery drivers or separate fleets that aren’t Uber, Grubhub or DoorDash, moving customers off of those popular national delivery apps has proven to be difficult for restaurants large and small.

Ben Jones, CEO of white label on-demand delivery company Skipcart, acknowledges that first-party delivery simply hasn’t taken off, regardless of the on-paper potential many restaurant execs know by heart.

“We see every enterprise company’s volumes for first-party delivery, and I can tell you it’s pretty pathetic,” he said. “What we saw is everybody moved over to the marketplaces.”

This situation, the two companies claim, forces restaurants into an unhealthy partnership that hasn’t improved as delivery and takeout have become an even larger share of the overall industry in recent years.

By partnering with DeliverB4—an offshoot of OrderB4 ghost kitchen and virtual restaurant management—the companies are giving restaurants a third option between outsourcing all deliveries to the big delivery apps and going it alone with entirely in-house deliveries relying upon a restaurant’s own team of drivers.

“With the restaurant outsourcing delivery to us through our driver network, we can save them 15 percent or more on fees per order and give visibility to their customers,” Jones said in an announcement of the partnership. “This is the future of on-demand delivery and we are excited to challenge the big 3 that have held restaurants captive for so long.”

It works by using DeliverB4 technology to capture marketplace orders and connect them with Skipcart’s national fleet of drivers, saving “$2 or more per order or as much as 18 percent in marketplace fees.”

DeliverB4 founder and CEO Randy Murphy said this new option “levels the playing field between restaurants and predatory marketplaces.” that he said could redistribute billions of dollars back to restaurant merchants every year.

Gateway to self-delivery

Skipcart has largely flown under the radar in the restaurant delivery space, but the San Antonio, Texas-based company launched in 2018 and signed Walmart as its first retail customer, giving it immediate national scale. At present, Skipcart is doing more than 10 million deliveries a year, which Jones said is “small fry, obviously, compared to some of [the big delivery apps] but it’s our own drivers, our own technology.”

With full control over its drivers, compared to providers that use independent contractors, Skipcart can guarantee to restaurants and retailers that its drivers will always show up when requested, rather than occasionally dropping orders, which can cause confusion in kitchens and lead to frustrated delivery customers.

Hinting at a significant change in Skipcart’s corporate structure coming soon, Jones predicted his company will grow to become the second largest restaurant delivery provider in the next couple years and in the “hyper-local space.”

Asked how this partnership could grab third-party delivery market share where others have failed, Jones said hiring drivers is really hard, but that his company has national scale through existing partnerships and corporate ties that others couldn’t easily replicate—augmented by DeliverB4’s tech stack that works for independent and enterprise operators alike.

“We sit in a world where 7-Eleven’s one of our partners, where 30-minute delivery is a mandate by our customers—we have the capability to do batching, we have the capability to do all these things that are not like trying to figure it out, we’ve already figured it out,” he added. “The reason we’re going all-in is because the industry is there, the industry is trying to get there and make the unit economics work for them and, for us, we can make the unit economics work. You just have to use our services [and] be able to plug into us and make it seamless where you click self-delivery and deliveries will go to us.”

Murphy called the partnership “a stepping stone to eventual self-delivery” taking advantage of the fact that consumers aren’t leaving the big marketplaces anytime soon. By creating what he called a virtual fleet, this setup works regardless of whether restaurant operators adopt native, in-house delivery in large numbers.

“This is the perfect stepping stone for anyone using the marketplaces to save money, and there’s really two things,” he added. “They save $2-$3 per order depending on the volume and the ticket price. They don’t do anything differently, nothing changes in their operations, and when you’re using this solution to deliver your marketplace orders, it’s 100 percent driver show-up, the driver has to show up to deliver the food.”

DeliverB4’s parent company is FourBurner Technologies, which bills itself as a restaurant tech group created by operators that includes OrderB4, which helps operators manage virtual restaurant brands and ghost kitchen operations. OrderB4 has since moved away from ghost kitchens, “because it’s very difficult to provide a service to a traditional ghost kitchen…because they’re flipping over a lot of operators right now and I don’t think it’s a viable model,” Murphy clarified.

With DeliverB4, FourBurner is focusing on a much wider swath of the off-premises restaurant landscape. Murphy said any restaurant could benefit from the partnership’s new solution, and said that helping smaller-scale restaurants at this moment is “almost a social impact play where we need to get savings to restaurants right now.”

Jones said this expanded network of potential restaurant customers is an interesting place for Skipcart, which has traditionally focused on enterprise-scale brands. From his side of the fence, small and midsize enterprises are a natural fit, as they tend to have an IT expert that “understands how everything works without having to explain it, and that’s the industry we’re going after…more like the regional players.”

Looking ahead to the wider North American delivery scene, Jones pointed to DoorDash and Uber’s recent diversification announcements, including Uber’s new push on nationwide shipping, as evidence that they want to own the logistics side of the business.

“I think they’re going to spend a lot of time on [becoming] the next super app of choice that consumers go to, and this is why they’re going to the DashMarts and DoorDash Kitchens and Uber kitchens and all these kinds of things,” he added. “They’re saying we want this whole suite of things for consumers to latch onto where they can get anything delivered at any time, but it hasn’t been about the delivery experience, it’s how do I get even more things inside the app, so I would actually say they’re really focused on making a lot of money on marking these products up by 30 percent and becoming the Amazon of this industry.”

“You get a network on board that’s almost as big, doesn’t have to spend 12 years ramping up their consumer base, can ramp restaurants very quickly and cost little to nothing to the restaurant merchant, I mean, can you imagine how much is going to move from the marketplaces?” Murphy asked. “They’ll have visibility to consumer data, so it’s revolutionary. I think there’s going to be a disruption in the current model from the restaurant standpoint that we see today, and it’s going to go multichannel, multichannel at a much lower cost—and that’s what’s going to change.”

more

Flybuy and Olo Announce Strategic Partnership to Power Off-Premises

Radius Networks, a leading enterprise location technology platform, is teaming up with Olo, a leading open SaaS platform for restaurants, to power the restaurant industry’s off-premises initiatives. Currently, Flybuy and Olo have dozens of shared brands with thousands of locations live together, including Applebee’s, IHOP, El Pollo Loco, Five Guys, Hooters, Newk’s, Qdoba, Tropical Smoothie Cafe, District Taco, Burgerville, Taco Johns, and many more. The combined offering gives restaurants the tools they need to offer an innovative off-premise order and fulfillment process.

When a customer places an order through the brand’s app or website, Olo and Flybuy work together to provide the restaurant with location-based events so that employees can perfectly time order preparation and handoff, at the counter, at the curb, or in the drive-thru. After implementing this combined solution, brands are immediately seeing increased off-premise order volume, low wait times, and a boost in customer satisfaction. “After working together with Flybuy and Olo, we can perfectly mirror the food freshness and quality of service that our patrons enjoy when they dine in the restaurant,” says Adam Karveller, VP Information Technology at Newk’s, an early-adopter of technology and innovation. “Our wait times are low, our staff is more efficient than ever, and our customers keep coming back. On top of that, we have greatly reduced waste, refunds and chargebacks. What more could you ask for!” he continues.

“We look forward to continuing to innovate in partnership with Olo to bring valuable solutions to our shared brands,” says Dan Estrada, Chief Strategy Officer at Radius Networks. “The Olo Ordering and Flybuy Pickup combined offering provides a frictionless off-premise order and pickup experience, across in-store, curbside, and drive thru pickup channels. This dramatically improves staff efficiencies and reduces customer wait times by prioritizing order preparation based on exact customer arrival times.”

“Olo has been working with the Flybuy team for years and we are excited to strengthen our partnership with new innovations that are shaping the digital transformation of restaurants,” says Dan Singer, SVP of Corporate Development & Partnerships at Olo. “This partnership helps our restaurant partners achieve maximum operational efficiency as order-ahead for pick-up continues to grow.”

more

Inflation: Restaurant loyalty programs key ‘lever’ amid uncertainty, says analyst

Amid rampant inflation, more restaurants are leaning on loyalty and reward programs.

“Without question, restaurant organizations that invest in loyalty see greater sales, higher retention of customers, and, we believe, higher margins long-term,” Savneet Singh, CEO of restaurant management platform PAR Technology, told Yahoo Finance.

According to Singh, reward programs lead to greater customer loyalty, which, in turn, drives frequency, spend, check averages, and engagement — especially during tough economic times.

PAR, whose client list includes top brands like Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, and Arby’s, among others, helps brands improve operations to better capture the long-term value of a customer.

“When you build a loyal following, that following comes back to your restaurant. You don’t need to re-market to them, but more importantly, you have more data on them,” Singh said.

He added, “Loyalty programs are an incredible way to build a bond with that customer so they stay with you for the long run.”

Recent data proves the benefits of these types of offerings with Chipotle (CMG) announcing just last week that it has expanded its loyalty program to Canada.

“The thing that’s most attractive to us is we can have a more personalized one-to-one relationship with [these customers],” Chipotle CFO Jack Hartung told Yahoo Finance in a new interview, revealing that the Mexican chain’s loyalty program boasts 28 million members and counting.

“Those who join loyalty come to Chipotle more often, and they spend more when they come,” the executive continued.

Similarly, Taco Bell (YUM) revealed earlier this year that members of its subscription service, the Taco Lover’s Pass, were three times more likely to visit a Taco Bell restaurant per month.

The company added that the program boosted new reward members by 20% and generated a 35% increase in overall spending from active members.

In the U.S. alone, nearly one in three restaurant customers use loyalty programs each month, according to the latest edition of PYMNTS‘ Digital Divide series.

separate study found that 43% of diners said they would be more inclined to purchase from restaurants that offer loyalty rewards.

Rewards and digital go hand-in-hand…Peter Saleh, BTIG Analyst

Peter Saleh, managing director and restaurant analyst at BTIG, told Yahoo Finance that “almost everybody has a rewards program.”

He described it as a necessary “lever” to drive growth, emphasizing that most companies will need to eventually utilize their own digital-first programs as they mature.

But the analyst noted that the most powerful factor of a rewards program is “you get to learn a lot about your customer.”

“Restaurants that have loyalty programs know when a customer ordered, what they ordered, how much they spent, what location they visited, their age — all types of data that allows these restaurants [to make better decisions],” he explained.

Singh added that technology has also created a more sophisticated way of tracking loyalty programs by utilizing that real-time data to better drive long-term customer value.

“Rewards and digital go hand-in-hand,” Saleh agreed. “The most powerful thing is all the data that these companies capture over the course of time.”

‘The needs of the brand’

As brands grow and mature, their reward programs might change, too, with more companies offering perks beyond just promotions and discounts.

“The best [companies] are adjusting their loyalty programs to fit the needs of their brand, rather than just adopting a one-size-fits-all approach,” Singh revealed.

He explained that loyalty programs can serve a variety of purposes, with some brands opting to drive business during off-peak hours while others would rather focus on collecting customer data.

Then there are the loyalty programs that focus on cultivating just that — loyalty — by providing members with early access to special products.

Fast food giants like Papa John’s and Taco Bell have recently capitalized on the up-and-coming trend, offering early access to menu items like the Epic Pepperoni-Stuffed Crust Pizza and Mexican Pizza, respectively.

“It’s a way to reward loyalty customers, and also prove why they should keep that app on their phone,” Singh said, adding that the new offering is an “incredible way for restaurants to build a connection.”

“I think as we get into potential economic uncertainty, you’ll see more and more of those because the value of being close to your customer is significantly higher,” he predicted.

more

Zuppler and DataDreamers announce strategic partnership and integration

Zuppler, an online food ordering system for delivery service providers, restaurants, and caterers, and DataDreamers, a Fullsteam company, the industry leading marketplace ordering, dispatch and driver management software for delivery service providers and restaurants announce their partnership and technology integration to support the $80B Food Delivery Market. Together, the joint solution provides a superior consumer ordering experience with best in class dispatch and delivery technology to grow order volume and operational efficiency. This integration supports the need in the food delivery industry for an open API to provide greater flexibility and control for local delivery companies and independent restaurants.

Amazing Guest Experience Combined with Operational Excellence

Zuppler offers both restaurants and delivery service providers a custom branded, fully integrated online ordering system to control their customer relationships, own their customer data as well as drive profit and growth. DataDreamer clients gain access to an enterprise-grade ecommerce user experience and complete marketing and loyalty solutions that will expand new revenue streams and order volume while maintaining the robust dispatch and driver management tools offered by DataDreamers. 

Existing DataDreamers clients can continue to use the DataDreamers tablet to receive and confirm orders and minimize any disruption or training needs for restaurants, and gain access to new integrations available through Zuppler. DataDreamers clients will also continue to use Fullsteam for payment processing and the driver management and reporting functionality for the day to day management of drivers.

New delivery services clients receive custom branded online ordering platforms designed for growth, with dispatch and driver tools that streamline the delivery process. DataDreamers provides drivers with navigation through Google maps, one-tap order confirmation and status updates, and quick communication with dispatch, restaurants, and customers. As the industry leading platform, DataDreamers is widely regarded as the gold standard for driver management, driver dispatch, and delivery logistics in the food industry. The integration will be generally available in 2022.

“This partnership supports the Zuppler mission of offering open solutions with integrations that enable customers to control their growth and customer experience”, said Co-Founder and CEO of Zuppler, Shiva Srinivasan. Srinivasan also added “End customers benefit from the Zuppler and DataDreamers integration by providing an ideal ordering experience coupled with technology that ensures delivery is fast and accurate.” 

“DataDreamers has been the industry leader in food ordering marketplaces and driver dispatch and management systems for the past decade. Together with Zuppler, the combined solution offers exactly the right set of restaurant, delivery provider, and end user functionality that the food industry has been searching for”, said Evangelos Antypas, Group President, Fullsteam. Antypas added “Delivery service providers expect and demand full control of their technology decisions and transparency in their business relationships, which the Zuppler and DataDreamers open API is designed to support.”

To learn more about the partnership and integration, visit www.zuppler.com/datadreamers.


About Zuppler 

Founded more than a decade ago in Conshohocken, PA, Zuppler is a global software and services company supporting businesses in the food and delivery service industry by providing custom branded online ordering systems for its clients. The Zuppler tools allow restaurants and delivery service providers to control their customer relationships, own their customer data and drive profit and growth. Offerings include custom branded online ordering menus, food ordering marketplaces, Google food ordering integration, mobile apps, delivery management, and more. For more information visit, www.zuppler.com


About Fullsteam

Fullsteam is a leading technology and payments company headquartered in Auburn, Alabama. Fullsteam provides its acquired companies with streamlined payments infrastructure and enhanced operational support in order to increase growth and improve profitability. Fullsteam is actively seeking further acquisitions across multiple software verticals. For more information about Fullsteam, visit, https://www.fullsteam.com

more