David Schofield is Chief Executive Officer for Restaurant Revolution Technologies, Inc., (RRT) which provides restaurant chains nationwide with easy-to-implement phone, online and mobile takeout, order management, customer loyalty and catering solutions. In our continuing “Talking With” series, he discusses the importance of takeout to a restaurant’s bottom line, the “technology bandwagon” and giving back to the community with Modern Restaurant Management magazine.
What is RRT’s mission?
At our core, our mission is to change the way restaurants develop and maintain personal relationships with their off-premise takeout guests by using a personal, high touch approach supported by the most innovative technology and service solutions available in the industry, which leads to increased customer satisfaction and a positive ROI for our clients.
Do you see the call center aspect of RRT evolving as more people are comfortable with using technology to put orders through?
Business in general is always evolving. But with that in mind and contrary to what many may believe, technology has only enhanced the need for call center services. Seventy percent of customers today still prefer the phone to technology as their ordering apparatus. Even millennial’s want a live body to talk to when they have an issue or question. While most technology providers only focus on providing an app to the customer that will transmit their order to the restaurant, a slew of peripheral errors and needs arise that they are not equipped to handle.
For example, what if the kitchen is slammed and the wait time is much longer than expected? What if the transaction fails? What if the customer wants to change the order? There are so many variables that arise that technology alone simply cannot address and communicate back to the customer. There are many examples of how our virtual call center waiters are able to save the takeout order for the restaurant and create a better overall experience for the customer that goes beyond the technology itself.
In an industry that relies on customer service, often face-to-face, how can RRT’s outsourced service be advantageous?
The bottom line is restaurants are leaving a lot of money on the table if they are not addressing the issues they have with takeout.
In many ways, we serve takeout customers vastly better than our clients. Our clients inherently have some disadvantages right off the bat. For example, if a takeout customer calls into a restaurant to place an order, often the host or hostess is the person taking the order. That person is often not well educated regarding the nuances of the menu. Or the call is picked up by a busy bartender and the last thing they want to be doing is handling calls and takeout orders and ignoring their guests in the bar. As such the order taking process is fumbled around or rushed. Not to mention, many takeout calls and orders are placed during peak dining times when the background noise becomes a major problem as well as communicating a proper pick-up time that avoids having the customers who want to get home wait around far longer than they anticipated.
All of these issues happen every day, and become much worse during peak hours. We have clients that were not even able to answer their phones during busy lunch or dinner periods, so these calls would ring and ring and go unanswered, or go into voicemail. The reality is restaurant’s focus on the dine-in customer and providing an excellent dine-in experience, while at the same time not realizing how poor the experience is for their takeout customers. From our perspective, we see a big disconnect between the dine-in and takeout experiences, and this hurts the overall image of their brand. The advantage in having a RRT virtual waiter receive the call and take the order is that the experience is vastly better from start to finish. We step in to bridge the gap, so that their customers are being provided a more consistent experience, no matter if it is dine-in or takeout. All of our virtual waiters are trained thoroughly on the menu of the restaurant. They will make suggestions, upsell and are aware of ingredients used for allergen and other health related questions. We have an extensive training program before an agent even takes their first call.
The bottom line is restaurants are leaving a lot of money on the table if they are not addressing the issues they have with takeout. By partnering with RRT, we capture potential lost orders and help to increase the average size of the tickets through our upselling, along with providing a much better customer experience.
How is the advent of new delivery options changing takeout?
Delivery is probably the biggest buzzword in the industry right now, which is why you see big corporate players like Google, Amazon and Uber getting into the game. What it really boils down to is convenience. More and more people, and especially millennials dine by convenience. Whether that’s using an app to locate a restaurant in the area, make a reservation or order for delivery. The modern takeout customer enjoys options of convenience, and delivery is perhaps the most convenient of all the options. If you think back a decade or two ago, pizza and Chinese cuisine restaurants dominated the space. But now, virtually all forms of restaurants from fast food to fine dining are ramping up their takeout operations which includes delivery.
Who do you feel is your competition?
Interesting question because although we are constantly compared to GrubHub and OLO the reality is that we do vastly more than they do. They focus on just the Online and Mobile aspects of takeout, which today account for about 30 percent of the total takeout opportunity. It is very important for restaurant operators to understand that 70 percent of takeout and other off-premise opportunities come in through a phone call. With this said, our fully integrated solutions, supported by our Virtual Call Center, Online and Mobile ordering, combined with the ability to support more complex Catering orders, perform Outbound Business Development services and offer a customized Loyalty platform, allows us to handle 100 percent of the off-premise opportunity – using one system, one database, one partner. There really isn’t a true competitor because we go beyond takeout. It’s the core reason we are different and why so many of our clients prefer our technology and service offerings.
What are some pressing issues you see as challenges for the restaurant industry?
We get to watch the developments within the restaurant industry from a different and unique vantage point. There are so many well established and highly successful chains and also new, exciting brands being launched and also lots of money coming in from Private Equity and Venture Capital firms. One key issue operators are facing is looking at more advanced Point of Sale systems – there are some newer POS companies who are entering the market with very robust and flexible cloud-based platforms, which is changing the landscape both from a cost and operations perspective. The bigger and more established players in the space are scrambling trying to respond.
Seventy percent of takeout and other off-premise opportunities come in through a phone call.
Another issue is operators know they need to jump on the new “technology bandwagon” and they realize they must provide more options and flexibility to their customers. What online service should we partner with for this? Should we have someone build our own mobile app? Should we consider a Loyalty program and if so, which one should we use? How do we support mobile payments like Google Wallet and Apple Pay? But there are so many different technology solutions and providers, so many different options they can consider. Because of this operators are very confused and not sure which path(s) to pursue.
Aside from that, I think it will be very interesting to see the evolution of restaurant takeout and delivery over the next few years as millennials increasingly become a larger age group within the takeout population. It’s the millennial age group that has seemingly preferred technology and requires a more progressive outlook of innovation. Yet, while use of these new technologies will continue to grow, phone calls will always be part of the takeout experience and will never go away.
Please explain the Jon Henderson Memorial Scholarship and why it’s important to you.
I founded the Jon Henderson Memorial Scholarship in 2010 with one of my fellow Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers Dieter Baier at the behest of the last will and testament of our fellow fraternity brother and lifelong friend Jon Henderson following his death from a near nine year battle with cancer. Jon’s vision was to provide financial resources and support for students of the Kappa Sigma fraternity who clearly display the leadership and academic qualities that are part of the core essence of being in the fraternity and for their families who need some assistance.
Since its inception, the Jon Henderson Memorial Scholarship has partnered with the San Diego Foundation whose sole purpose is to promote and increase effective and responsible charitable giving and manages more than $636 million in assets. During the first five years of the partnership, 18 scholarships were awarded. With this year’s group of five recipients, the total number of students receiving awards since its inception is 23 totaling $57,500.
I’ve always felt it important to give back to the community, and this endeavor has always resonated with me personally with Jon’s passing and my deep connections to the fraternity.