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Ep 63: Meredith Sandland / CEO of Empower Delivery & Digital Restaurant Dynamo

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The 2008 recession sped the disruption of the retail industry and the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in the digital disruption of restaurants. Meredith Sandland understands that disruption – and why it’s a good thing – better than anyone. In this episode of Forktales, we chat with Meredith about the restaurant tech revolution, eliminating complexity in restaurant operations and how “Delivering the Digital Restaurant” is actually a whole lot easier than most people think.

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Ep 63: Meredith Sandland / CEO of Empower Delivery & Digital Restaurant Dynamo
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Show Notes

Meredith is the CEO of Empower Delivery. The company’s software combines the consumer journey, the product journey, and the logistics journey into one integrated piece of software. The software enables all restaurants to profitably and sustainably serve the growing consumer demand for delivered meals.

Meredith is also the co-author of “Delivering the Digital Restaurant,” a book that explores the world of off-premise food and the massive disruption facing American restaurants through first-hand accounts of restaurateurs, food industry veterans and start-up entrepreneurs.

Many restaurants face complexity in the number of tools and apps they use to manage their day-to-day operations. 

The restaurant industry is showing unprecedented levels of technological innovation – particularly when it comes to ordering – which makes third-party apps and aggregators important for streamlining incoming orders. 

Innovation is also being seen in restaurant loyalty programs, which have come a long way since the Subway punch cards of the past.

Quotes

“A lot of restaurant brands were forced into adopting delivery (during the pandemic) when maybe they otherwise didn’t want to.” (Meredith)

“For operations, it’s really about eliminating complexity. There are so many channels and consumers are coming in so many different ways that it creates complexity. As you eliminate complexity, you will find that you have better financial outcomes.” (Meredith) 

“Every facet of the restaurant industry is being revolutionized by technology.” (Joseph) 

“Not every server can be the best, but technology can take the elements of that best server and make them consistent across every server. Technology used well in that setting should make the experience better.” (Meredith) 

“The restaurant industry is one of the only industries where all five senses are engaged.” (Joseph) 

“A really sophisticated digital restaurant is using 15-20 pieces of software.” (Meredith)

Transcript

00:00.00
vigorbranding
Everyone today I’m joined by my friend Meredith Sandlin she’s the Ceo of empowered delivery and the co-author of delivering the digital restaurant if you are on Linkedin Chances are you have seen her or heard from her because she is out there rocking it. In the media talking about digital or delivery digital. All that stuff. So Marilyn before we hop in while you say hello and give a little bit of backstory.

00:24.58
Meredith
Hi there. Well so good to be on the show. Um I’ve been listening and it is such a good podcast. So I’m excited to be part of it. Um, so yeah, my name is Meredith Sandland and I am the Ceo of empower delivery as well as the co-author of. Delivering the digital restaurant. Ah, your roadmap to the future of food and also the forthcoming delivering the digital restaurant the path to digital maturity which will be out in a couple of weeks here maybe by the time this podcast hears I don’t know we’ll find out.

00:54.94
vigorbranding
Dad’s awesome if it is. We’ll definitely have a link to it or at the very least have a link to pre-order I’m excited to get my hands on it. Um, you probably can’t really see it folks but right back here and on my bookshelf is the book and so um I’m excited to read the new one. Um.

01:08.90
Meredith
Um, if you think awesome.

01:12.15
vigorbranding
So delivery. It’s acing it is just like a really big challenge for restaurant brands large and small. So I think before the pandemic a lot were sort of adverse to it because they didn’t really see the value. Ah their format wasn’t set up for delivery so on and so forth all all the excuses and then um.

01:16.84
Meredith
Move on this.

01:29.71
vigorbranding
One day we won’t mention the pandemic in these things but it’s still we’re still in the after effects and what we know is it sort of slingshot at everyone to have to adopt immediately. Um, but it has become a begrudging necessity for a lot of restaurant leaders. Um.

01:40.56
Meredith
Run.

01:44.42
vigorbranding
The the fees are story trying to find um some sort of profitability so on and so forth. It’s just ah, it’s a challenge to say the least How can small brands in your opinion start to tackle the operational and financial challenges of delivery and make it work for them.

01:57.52
Meredith
Yeah, it’s such a good question and it is so true I think a lot of restaurant brands were forced into adopting delivery when maybe they otherwise wouldn’t have wanted to it. Certainly if they were already doing it. You know shot off the demand and massively increased the amount of delivery they were doing. And you know I have talked to a lot of restaurants in New York in particular who were at these high levels of delivery before the pandemic happened right? That New York was like the early adopter city of all this stuff and they would say yeah this whole you know incremental volume. Idea works really? Well if you’re doing ten or fifteen percent of your sales on top of your normal business. But once you get to a certain level of sales usually around 30 to 40% of your business it isn’t incremental it is your business and then you need to design the business for you know incorporating delivery and I have taken that lesson to heart because I think the way that you really improve the operations number 1 you said and then the financial outcome number 2 for number 1 on operations. It’s really about eliminating complexity. So. What has become very difficult in the restaurant industry is that we have all these channels now is someone coming in. Are they ordering a head are they dining in are they using a kiosk are they talking to someone on the phone are they typing something into the pos are they using door dash uber like there’s so many channels.

03:33.86
Meredith
And they’re coming in so many different ways that that creates a ton of complexity. So anywhere that a restaurant can eliminate complexity that’s going to help with the operational challenges a lot and that could be something as simple as putting in a third party aggregator. It could be something as big as saying you know what I’m going to take my off-premise demand. And move it truly off-premise into a ghost kitchen setting and let my restaurant be totally focused on dine in and then what happens with number two on the financial as you eliminate complexity. You will find that. Getting better at the operations takes care of your financials and you have better financial outcomes because you are eliminating complexity now. Unfortunately I think what’s happened in the industry is instead of eliminating complexity. We are in this like massively innovation phase which it’s exciting. But what ends up happening is we do something that uncovers a new problem we invent a new technology to fix that problem that uncovers a new opportunity. We go after it that creates a new problem. We create a new technology and all of a sudden. A really sophisticated digital restaurant is using 15 to 20 different pieces of software to try to make this all work. That’s a lot of complexity right? see that’s kind of where we are in the industry right now.

04:51.69
vigorbranding
Yeah, it’s It’s a ton of complexity. Um, so one of the things I mean with with the idea of simplifying streamlining optimizing all of that it starts to sound like um virtual brands are antithetical to that. So. We know that a virtual brand has helped a lot of um you know dead time and in restaurants elevate maximizing the Return. You know you’re you’re cooking the food anyway. Um, but can’t virtual brands actually do the opposite of the simplification and now.

05:20.77
Meredith
No, and no.

05:23.20
vigorbranding
Not only are you doing ah you know italian food but you’re dropping wings because your wing brand just got 16 orders um have you seen that play out or or is that not something that you’ve seen.

05:32.96
Meredith
Well I think a really sophisticated digital restaurant and hopefully a virtual restaurant company who’s advising them is going to try to design a virtual brand that limits complexity as much as possible. Um, and so the the best ones that are out there what they’re doing and and sometimes restaurants just do this themselves are not even doing it with a third -party company is they think about what ingredients do I already have on my line. What stations am I already using where do I have capacity either throughout day parts or in certain stations. And they focus the creation of the virtual brand that they they put into the restaurant in that place right? So no new ingredients. No new stations. No new labor really designed for the assets that they already have in place if they do that a virtual brand can be really not that complicated. Um, you also of course need the technology to bring that virtual brand in in a least complex way possible. Um, so whether that be an aggregator or whether you’re using something like empower delivery. You really need to be able to have that virtual brand be seamless and invisible. To the staff in the kitchen if they view it as something incremental or something else. They have to do that again is going to introduce. Complexity.

06:53.30
vigorbranding
Yeah, so let’s talk about that a little bit. Um you know Delivery isn’t just about these major consumer-facing brands like door dash Uber Eats postmates. Um yes, those are the ones that everyone thinks of and they are part of the equation but there’s an entire underbelly of companies that I think a lot of the um. Let less complex operators really know about and when they don’t know about it. They end up with that horrendous bank of tablets managing all these different components. They kind of talk to each other but maybe not totally. Um. What companies in this vertical. Do you think have been most impressive in helping to solve some of those problems. So.

07:27.65
Meredith
Yeah I mean there’s a lot of innovation going on a lot of really amazing things and I’m a little hesitant to answer this question honestly because every time I turn around I feel like I discover a new one and I don’t want to leave someone out but I will say and the things that. At the most basic level are the most impressive and then if restaurants do not have them. They need to get are these third party aggregators. So this is companies like Ordermark Chali deliver act. Um, you really need to have one of these to streamline the order flow coming in. Um, and you know increasingly some poss are hooking up directly with uber eats and grubhub and door dash which is also great but step 1 if orders are coming in from a lot of places you really need to streamline how those orders are coming to the kitchen so that the kitchen’s not losing their mind trying to keep track of all of them. Um. And then I’m also very impressed on that back end by companies that are saying wait just because you’re using jodash or uber eats as a marketing engine to get the order doesn’t mean you have to use their delivery fleet to fulfill the order. Um, and so companies like relay and nash and cartwheel who are. Breaking apart Um, the logistics from the order I think are very very interesting and they can help restaurants you know reduce the cost improve the service of getting that order actually fulfilled. They can also help restaurants as they you know grow their first party channels or direct ordering.

08:57.25
Meredith
To be able to fulfill those as well. Um, and then I really like companies like flyby who are doing geo-fencing and helping restaurants coordinate the activity of when the order is coming in versus when. Ah, the ready time of food is and all of those types of things I would be remiss of course not to say in power delivery which is something similar but in a totally different way but we’ll get into that later. Um, and then I am also really impressed with this idea of. Dynamic pricing which you see in companies like juicer and sauce and truffle. Um, and you know I I do 2 things like for futurism I do 2 things primarily number 1 is look at what happened in the travel industry and number 2 look what happened in digitally native brands. In apparel and consumer goods and if you look at those 2 things and just replace the word restaurant in there. You will future of restaurants. What’s going to be coming. What’s happening. Um and all of those companies have things like.

09:55.70
vigorbranding
A.

10:06.36
Meredith
Aggregators like dynamic pricing that help them sort through all this stuff.

10:11.87
vigorbranding
I yeah so I’m going to um, try my hardest to knock it into dynamic pricing because I’m about to have your um your friend Carl or ah or it’s Osborn right? Orsburn yeah I always say osborn when I say it quick. Yeah yeah.

10:17.31
Meredith
Um, academic.

10:20.69
Meredith
Was born. Yeah I everybody does I do I’d hear him for years. He’s still that in my cell phone. Actually he gets really annoyed with me.

10:32.80
vigorbranding
That’s funny. So I try to be very because I’m very sensitive to names and everything but I think him and I are gonna have a great episode coming up about Juicer and about specifically dynamic pricing because I am on the contrarian side I’m I’m very against it.

10:33.86
Meredith
Um, yeah, oh well I will let you debate that with him that I will let you believe that.

10:48.30
vigorbranding
Yeah, yeah, or at least have a good discussion about it and so um, a couple other shameless plugs we we did have Alan Hickey from Romo on the show. So I suggest listeners go check that out. Um, he is more on the logistics side.

10:51.80
Meredith
Um.

10:54.59
Meredith
1 was.

11:00.97
vigorbranding
And then we also spoke with Alex K who is part of order Mark as well. So I suggest folks who listen to that 1 for more on the aggregation side. Ah, there’s some good insights there but moving along I would love for you to get maybe just a little more granular. Um.

11:07.41
Meredith
Moving.

11:17.58
vigorbranding
For folks who are not I would say part of macro brands that have the ability to to really get into the complexities of um, the ecosystem itself of delivery. Can you just kind of explain the different parts so we have the source of the order we have aggregation. Potentially you’re you’re suggesting Yes, obviously I am too.

11:34.68
Meredith
And.

11:36.44
vigorbranding
Um, what are these different ah categories. Yeah.

11:41.59
Meredith
That’s very interesting I think yes, the source of the order is probably what I would call a you know consumer facingcing part is step 1 and consumer journeys are circular right? So you have to acquire them in a e-commerce funnel. And then you need to get them to return and come back and so um I think we’re starting emerging seeing some tools on the ecommerce funnel helping us understand. Um, how consumers are moving through from awareness to trial and going through the stages using the digital footprint that they leave behind on the various website s and apps. Um, the restaurant industry is very very early in that part I would say um, it’s primarily platforms like doorda and uber eats. That are putting those in the merchant portal on the backend. Um, you are starting to see some companies emerging that are trying to combine the data across portals to make it consistent and help you figure out how to use it. Um, and then you go into that loyalty loop right getting them to come back and there’s. Actually been quite a bit of um innovation on the loyalty front. Um I think we all think of it as the old punch card from you know subway from our childhood and it has changed so much in large part because of the innovation that Starbucks really started gosh I don’t know.

12:57.93
vigorbranding
That’s right? yep.

13:05.11
Meredith
15 or twenty years ago now um but it is starting to catch on in the rest of the industry you had Zack Goldstein from thanks on think he does a great job explaining what he calls loyalty 3.0 and how that’s changing and how personalization is really coming to the front. So then once that consumer order is placed. However, they get there then we’re going to enter that aggregator phase bringing it all down into the kitchen and go into production so that’s going to be our Kds figuring out how to route it through the kitchen. Um. And make sure that it’s accurate and it gets expedited correctly and then we’ve got to get the product out of kitchen and that’s where we go to that logistics backend. Um and some of the companies that we were talking about there and.

13:56.10
Meredith
That is all fine and good. But we also then have a bunch of things that don’t hit that journey right? We’ve got companies that do labor scheduling like 7 shifts. We’ve got companies that do accounting like restaurant 3 65 inventory like galley solutions and there’s all these little bits and pieces on the back end that help the restaurant optimize profitability keep track of what they’re doing so that they can do it really well and that is the big opportunity here in all of this as much as delivery is probably the thing we all see the most. And are most familiar with as consumers and frankly, which causes the most headaches insides restaurants so it gets talked about the most there is so much opportunity to take what is in many ways. A very um, human. Production process that relies a ton on experience and knowledge and passing that tribal knowledge from person to person by doing and showing and telling and putting that inside of a computer so that the software can help support I mean 7 sort of is such a great example of this. You know I think of when my first hourly job my manager posting my schedule on the on the borton board in the back written in pencil because he’s kind of changing it and how different these automated scheduling tools are now that allow you to you know compare to sales volume and make forecasts and.

15:13.64
vigorbranding
Yeah.

15:27.79
Meredith
Ah, let you know your employees change their schedules themselves instead of you having to be involved. It’s really come a long long way. But there’s so much more to do.

15:38.00
vigorbranding
Yeah, yeah mean we we even had ah Ellis one Stanley on he founded ah a startup called axial shift their whole goal is to get the managers out of that small cubby hall that’s mislabeled in office um more more like a cage but um.

15:49.82
Meredith
Um, yeah.

15:54.49
vigorbranding
Anyway, get them out and like on the floor where they really really can do the work and help motivate their team and so on and so forth. So like every facet of this industry is being completely revolutionized by technology. Um, and I think one of the I may have mentioned it on multiple.

16:00.72
Meredith
Yeah, really.

16:08.59
vigorbranding
Ah, episodes. But 1 of the side effects here. That’s negative is that that death by a thousand cuts with all these Sas fees. Um, so am I right in forecasting that we will start to see more aggressive convergence um of these platforms I mean we have the aggregators. But.

16:23.57
Meredith
25

16:25.89
vigorbranding
You know restaurant 365 is aptly named. Um they want to be that 365 degree operational platform and then one that you didn’t mention um, not that I’m calling you out but is otter which I think is ottr which actually quite literally means one.

16:38.98
Meredith
Ah hump.

16:44.83
vigorbranding
1 thing to rule them all or something like that is is what otter stands for basically they want to be that um, encompassing solution and then we I mean we just saw a convergence happen ah early late last week actually Chali bought koala. Um.

16:47.36
Meredith
Yes.

17:01.36
vigorbranding
You know which you know Koala we had on we had Brett on as well. So man come to think about I had some brilliant people on this show. You’re you’re like the latest in in a long line. This is great. Um, but you’re right this digital revolution is not just delivery and I think what’s great is the restaurant industry. Um.

17:12.27
Meredith
Um.

17:19.96
vigorbranding
Despite itself has the benefit of a lot of technological thinkers and pioneers who have done it for so many other industries like you said retail and travel and all of that we we just benefit from it. You know we’re not, We’re not testing these these approaches right? The there it’s out there.

17:25.11
Meredith
And. Totally it’s it’s kind of a good thing. It’s kind of a good thing to be the the vertical that goes last because we can look at everybody else ago Now. What did they do and how would that apply here and would that work or would we do it differently which is great. Um, and it may actually explain a lot of.

17:39.10
vigorbranding
Um, yeah.

17:49.40
Meredith
The rapidity of the change is that you’ve got so many other smart brains coming from other places going. Well this worked here. Let’s apply it there and they can kind of do that all at once where you know naturally in travel and in consumer goods that took longer. Because they were coming up with the things and testing through them and in restaurants. It’s much more. Let’s just apply and see what happens now the the good news of that is that I think we as an industry are able to defend ourselves a little bit more against tech companies right? we.

18:15.30
vigorbranding
Um, yeah.

18:25.50
Meredith
We know what’s coming right? We know that a big tech company can acquire a consumer and take all the power and create some issues and we’re working really hard to go against that now in travel. I think they were caught off guard by that and they ended up having a lot of consolidation among the travel companies over time to deal with that and fight back right now we have Marriott bombvoy this huge giant travel company. We’ve got like 7 airlines and that’s it didn’t use to be that way.

18:51.61
vigorbranding
Yep.

18:56.84
Meredith
And in restaurants. It’s a highly fragmented industry. Um, even though we have a lot of chains and it feels like there’s a lot of monoculture in restaurants half the industry is independent and that kind of industry structure is right to. Really struggle when a big tech company comes in you know 1 or 2 players versus lots and lots of little bit little guys. Um, but I think because we’ve had this experience of seeing what’s happened in other industries we’re like wait a minute we would like to do it this way we would like to this happen and.

19:32.80
vigorbranding
Um.

19:34.19
Meredith
You know it’s resulted in you know, think of someone like doorda who could could be 1 of these companies. That’s big against all the littles. Um, instead is doing things like buying bbot creating door dash storefront doing door dash drive. And essentially saying to restaurants. You know what we’re indifferent they can come through your direct channel they can come through our channel we win. Either way, we’ll give you the tools to do both. Um, that is really unusual and I I don’t know I will actually I do know you would not have seen that an example in travel.

20:07.72
vigorbranding
Yeah I think what’s beautiful, ah beautiful about the industry and and kind of um, gives us a different facet. Is it really is the only industry where all 5 senses are engaged. Um you know and I mean I think that’s one like so it might be easy to say like if we take the travel industry for instance like.

20:07.87
Meredith
You know twenty five years ago

20:18.58
Meredith
Plan.

20:26.34
vigorbranding
Hate to say it. We just don’t really need a travel advisor anymore. We don’t need someone to like book our stuff for us unless unless you’re that busy where you actually do need an assistant. Um so to see that whole industry kind of fade and go away that makes sense. But.

20:43.60
vigorbranding
The the physical experience is such a huge part of loving a restaurant brand not just the food. Um how how do we make sure that technology isn’t freezing up in making it cold in the name of smoother operations more profitability. So and so forth How do we make sure that.

21:01.71
Meredith
Um.

21:02.70
vigorbranding
That that one facet that’s such a beautiful part of this industry is strengthened and accentuated.

21:08.79
Meredith
Yeah, well I guess ah it probably depends by Channel but as I think about Dyn in which is probably the most of the experiential. Um, it should actually make it more experiential technology right? You should find that. As you deploy technology to do the things that don’t add a lot of value like baking a reservation or scheduling the labor um to the consumer experience. They add a lot of value but they don’t add value really to the consumer experience then that means that people inside the restaurant can be redeployed into. Ah, things that do create a lot of value for the consumer experience. You’ll also find you we talk about this example, a lot in the book that technology can help you create the best in digital hospitality. Your best server. Why are they so good because they remember people they remember what they like. Remember from table touch to table Touch. What’s going on with that table. That’s why they’re good and it turns out not everyone is the best server. Not everyone can be best but technology can take the elements of that best and make them consistent across to every server and give servers the tools. To do this things every single time with every single guest. No matter how often they come in so technology used well in that setting should actually make the experience better.

22:34.20
vigorbranding
I Love that what one of the other sides of this that um you mention is the electrification being a precondition to a lot of these things and specifically automation and you’ve ah. Maybe accurately predicted an increased adoption of electric cooking equipment Smart Ovens other tech upgrades in the restaurants. So to Date. We’ve talked a lot about software like let’s talk a little bit about the hardware. Um I’d love for you to dive in it further but I must say. If someone comes here and tries to take away my gas stove where it’s going to be really really ugly.

23:07.70
Meredith
I know I know when ah Berkeley was the first city in America to outlaw gas in new builds and I I mean I think people are still suing them. It’s like did nobody’s happy. Um, but you know.

23:16.37
vigorbranding
Um, yeah.

23:23.22
Meredith
Ah, couple things number 1 gas is incredibly difficult to regulate using technology. Um, and if you think about how most line cooks cook in a gas-based kitchen. They don’t ever adjust the temperature right? They take the pan on and off. And they’re doing that because adjusting the temperature. There’s too much of a delay between when you turn the gas down and when the pan actually changes temperature right? But if I take it off I know like I know exactly what’s happening and I can look with my eyes and smell and.

23:48.62
vigorbranding
I Yeah and a lot of guesswork too like did I turn out too long. You know? Yeah yep.

23:59.58
Meredith
Ah, it’s very clear. What’s going on Well a computer can’t smell a computer can look with it eyes. But it’s very very difficult and creating the robotics to take a pan off and on off and not like that is so complex and again in the spirit spirit of saying.

24:04.53
vigorbranding
Yet.

24:18.54
Meredith
Wait What if we did something less complex instead of more complex you say electric is less complex because when I turn it down I can measure instantly did it turn down or not and I can create a feedback loop to say yes I did what you asked me to do right. And I don’t have to move anything robotically it just instantly goes off and so as we think about trying to get to a more automated place in the kitchen you have to have electricity right? That’s the reason my teslas are electric. Do They love electric cars I don’t know maybe but. Electric cars a lot easier automate. They sure right? So as they thought about creating a self-driving car. They thought step one electrification and the same thing’s happening in the kitchen now. The next thing I would say to that is that we all love gas because that’s how we grew Up. That’s how our parents grew up. Our grandparents grew Up. We understand it. We know it well in the old days. They cooked on an open fire or they cooked with coal. You don’t mess those things right? like you get over it and you learn the new thing and you learn how to use it and the same thing is happening in kitchen equipment. And in many ways, The innovation has been more rapid at the consumer level right? If you think about your friends and how they love to sous vied or they got an air fryer or they’re using their instant pot. All these new cooking methods that enable them to.

25:41.22
Meredith
Accomplish things more quickly and in a more automated way than say using like a boiling vat of fat to create French fries right? which nobody does at home ever. It’s not. It’s not.

25:54.92
vigorbranding
I did it once it was terrible. It’s not fun. No the cleanup as hell. Yeah, yeah, absolutely Well I love that that’s it’s definitely a different spin on it too. Um.

25:58.49
Meredith
Not where they you like the clean up is alone. Not.

26:09.31
vigorbranding
But which I think really helps people because there is a ah love. Ah, especially when you get into the higher echelons of of culinary of the gas stove’s and I love mine here like I Really I’ve worked on conduction or induction I’m sorry um and it’s nice and all but I miss my fire and maybe it’s a primal thing I don’t know. Um.

26:15.23
Meredith
And so yeah, yeah.

26:23.68
Meredith
Yeah, yeah, you know I I will confess like we own a guesttove. We have a guest grill right? But we are using them less and less and less as we embrace so vide as we embrace.

26:28.83
vigorbranding
But if it’s for the greater. Good.

26:43.34
Meredith
Instapot as we embrace our air fryer as we embrace all these other things and you know we haven’t gotten a smart oven in our home yet. But maybe someday.

26:51.34
vigorbranding
Well also consistency isn’t necessarily consistency at the at the ah rapid speed that we need in a commercial kitchen isn’t the same at home. Maybe I’m just the the curmudgeon or the old man at this point but like I do have a coal.

27:03.91
Meredith
Um, you know.

27:05.73
vigorbranding
Burning Grill and I will not get propane or anything like no I yeah like I only use lump charcoal like I’m maybe I’m just like trying to hold onto something that’s dying I don’t know it’s dedication. Um, but I don’t do it in my house. Obviously.

27:10.80
Meredith
Um, Wow you are oh gee. Wow that is wow.

27:24.36
vigorbranding
Um, okay so I feel like I’ve held you back long enough. Let’s really dig into some of the things that you’ve been been bringing into the world from the thought leadership to um, your quote unquote day job I mean they’re all inner internerlinked. But um, we mentioned the book delivering the digital restaurant. Can you just. Give us the thirty Second this is why you have to read it and then I would love to talk more about empowered delivery before we put a bow on this.

27:49.88
Meredith
Absolutely so to start with delivering the digital restaurant or 2 books. The first one is um, you were met to the future of food. The second is the path to digital maturity and we think of the first book really as the why. Why is all this stuff happening what exactly is happening who is doing it. Um, lots of stories from restaurateurs and innovators tech people entrepreneurs telling us about the change and making the case for restaurants that they need to embrace it. Um, so that is the first book and I think. And important read for anyone who um, is really trying to make good decisions I need some context for that. The second book is really more about the how and I I would say it’s aimed more squarely at independent restaurants or smaller restaurant groups who. Can’t afford you know a fleet of technology people to figure out what to do and how to integrate it with all the other pieces and it goes through starting at the beginning you know how do you get on and maximize the third parties. How do you generate direct orders. Um, and then how do you move all the way through to the more and more complex things like virtual brands and ghost kitchens um, all the way down the line and it’s got some tips called out in it. Some worksheets called out in it to help restaurants really apply some of these concepts.

29:19.90
Meredith
To their own businesses.

29:20.20
vigorbranding
So yeah I love that’s more of a playbook you know, putting pen to paper quite literally but also connecting the dots I love that and I think it’s so important for especially the independents like you said who don’t have the financial or or human resources to. Be able to execute so it is a bit of a diy culture. Still um and that that covers everything digitally and connectivity for the restaurant. Not just delivery whereas you’re the Ceo of empowered delivery is the name of the company and that’s basically.

29:38.49
Meredith
It is.

29:52.52
Meredith
Um.

29:54.35
vigorbranding
Taking delivery and making it easier if I had to just dumb it down to just a few words. Um, yeah, so give us a little bit of ah a thirty second on that like um, what what are some of the crazy things that you’re doing that are amazing.

29:57.43
Meredith
I think I might say yeah yeah, sure so empower delivery is software that combines the consumer journey the product journey and the logistics journey into one. Integrated piece of software and because of that the software is what we call resource aware or holistic. It knows what’s going on with every resource on the system and can orchestrate activity across the different resources. Um, what that does is. Reduce latency right? Nobody’s waiting um and reducing latency increases optimization. Every resource is more fully utilized and of course that reduces cost which makes restaurants more profitable and actually lowers the price to consumers. Um, if you. Um, kind of wrap it and about that way now it is software that is meant for restaurants that are doing a lot of deliveries I would say delivery centric restaurants um ghost kitchen restaurants those types of things. So if you have a multi-concept integrated kitchen. That is sending a lot of deliveries out the door There’s a better way to do it and it’s in power delivery. Um, the reason that I ended up there is very related to the book. So I met Chris Baggett who’s one of the co-founders six years ago known him forever and.

31:29.44
Meredith
Ah, you know I was writing this book and finishing up and he said why don’t you come see what we’re doing in Indianapolis and I said yeah okay I’ll I’ll come look at it and remember I’ve known him for 6 years I walked into that kitchen and I was like blown away wait. This is what you’re doing.

31:33.70
vigorbranding
Yes.

31:47.68
Meredith
Oh my gosh this is incredible like and I’ve heard him talk about it I mean he’s in the first book. It’s not like it’s not like I didn’t know but seeing it with your own eyes as a restaurant person. You cannot unsee it It’s absolutely incredible. So um, and so the software companies empower delivery. And the restaurant company is cluster truck so it was cluster truck that I was looking at which is operating on the software and I said to him you know the kitchen is so quiet. You’re doing such incredible volumes like you know they’re doing eight hundred or a thousand transactions a day which you would think would be an absolute madhouse.

32:18.55
vigorbranding
So well.

32:24.55
Meredith
Quiet Calm. Everyone’s just doing their thing jaming a way to music like that’s amazing. Everyone’s in this like total state of flow. It’s cool like you would want to work there right? Nobody’s yelling and he said yeah well this software is telling him what to do? So Oh okay, great.

32:41.59
vigorbranding
There’s doing it.

32:43.40
Meredith
And then I said well how many pieces of software are you using to run this restaurant remember earlier in this conversation. We said a really sophisticated digital restaurant is using 15 to 20 different pieces of software and you said are we going to have a saas reckoning. Are they all going to consolidate and yes I yes, we are and they are. Ah, but empower delivery uses basically itself to run a restaurant so in the case of cluster shock. They do um, use 7 shifts on the backend for labor scheduling. The software doesn’t do that and they use netsuite for accounting the software doesn’t do that but otherwise it does.

33:06.79
vigorbranding
Well.

33:20.87
Meredith
Every single thing that we’ve talked about all inside 1 piece of software and there are several amazing things about that one is that it’s way less complicated too is that it is I think less costly and 3 is that um. You don’t have this compounding problem of all these different bits and pieces trying to talk to each other right. It’s totally resource where it does the right thing at the right time every time which is pretty cool and then the third question I asked him was all right. You have a lot of people in here. What labor percentage are you running because of course you can. You can make anything work if you just throw people at it right? He says 19% and I said ah that’s amazing. Okay, so but you have no front of House. So what’s your delivery cost and he goes 7 % and I go I’m sorry what? So for less than most people can run a full restaurant.

33:55.38
vigorbranding
Um, that’s right? yeah.

34:11.69
vigorbranding
Wow.

34:14.00
Meredith
You are staffing the kitchen and also paying for the delivery. What are you charging on your on your menu markups and your delivery fees Nothing what? So the consumer pays less they get the food faster. The restaurant’s more profitable like how what this is amazing and.

34:31.15
vigorbranding
Um, that’s amazing. Yeah.

34:32.66
Meredith
I joined him to spend the software company out because that like everyone should have that That’s incredible. Yeah.

34:39.15
vigorbranding
Absolutely love that. That’s fantastic. Um god I almost want to spend an entire episode on pucking just the details of that. But I do have to hit you with probably the toughest question you’ve ever been asked. So Brace yourself buckle up if you had. 1 final meal. What would you eat where would you eat and why.

35:00.90
Meredith
Yeah, Well, you know if truly it were my final mail. It would be more about who I was with than what I was eating I think um and so I would certainly eat with my husband and my son. Um, and that probably means we eat at home and we’d have delivery of course. Ah well ideally I would use something on empower delivery but we haven’t gotten anything out here in Orange County yet So Orange County Western Please call.

35:17.28
vigorbranding
And I love it. What would you have delivered anything in particular.

35:29.00
vigorbranding
Um, oh let’s sort that out. Yeah well you heard the call all right? So how can people connect with you Meredith.

35:37.29
Meredith
Yeah, absolutely so and as you mentioned at the top of the show the best way to find me is on Linkedin. Um and feel free to reach out to me there. Follow us there. We put out a newsletter delivering the digital restaurant on Linkedin every other week. Um, we also do a podcast covering the highlights of the news for the last two weeks every other week. Um, and that you can find on all the major podcast platforms on a Youtube and then we have a website delivering the digitalrest.com and there you can find a collection of all of our writing which we do a lot of in nations, restaurant news and restaurantener.com as well as the podcast old newsletters things like that and you can order the book.

36:29.50
vigorbranding
It awesome. We will have absolutely all of those links for everyone to click through I do suggest ah subscribing to the podcast. It’s it’s great and it’s I think it’s a fantastic way to stay up to date with what’s happening, especially within the tech side of the restaurant industry. And yeah.

36:43.54
Meredith
Um, yeah.

36:44.53
vigorbranding
Thank you for being so generous with your time and your thinking not just on on here but everywhere you’re putting out that thinking it is helping so so so very much especially in a rapidly changing environment. Um, again, Meredith great to have you on and hopefully we’ll have you on again soon.

36:57.57
Meredith
Sounds good. Well thank you so much.

 

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