Toasting Up an Acquisition and OpenTable Truly Delivers

This edition of MRM’s News Bites features Toast, Open Table, Olo, Revel Systems, Prakas & Co, Arbella Insurance Group, Lunchbox, Joella’s Hot Chicken and  US Foods Holding Corp.

Toast Hot for HR

Toast acquired StratEx, a  provider of HR and payroll software for restaurants. StratEx’s HR software and consulting services help restaurants automate applicant tracking, scheduling, payroll, benefits, and labor law compliance.  

“At Toast, we know that for a restaurant to be successful it often starts with recruiting and retaining a great team, yet many restaurants wrestle with employee turnover that can exceed 70 percent,” said Chris Comparato, CEO of Toast. “By adding StratEx to the Toast Platform, we can better support restaurants of all sizes in simplifying HR, payroll, and talent management on a platform that works seamlessly with Toast and our technology partner ecosystem.

As a result of the acquisition, the former StratEx product is now part of Toast Payroll & Team Management, an all-in-one HR solution built specifically for the restaurant industry. Designed to seamlessly work with Toast Point of Sale, the solution automates employee onboarding, accurately tracks hours across locations, streamlines payroll, and simplifies compliance for restaurants of all sizes. 

“We’re passionate about the restaurant industry and helping our community of restaurateurs succeed in today’s dynamic – and often challenging – labor market,” said Adam Ochstein, CEO of StratEx. “In Toast we discovered a partner that is equally as passionate about the restaurant community. Joining forces allows us to accelerate investments in our platform and build new employee-facing products that will allow restaurants running on Toast to attract, hire, and retain great teams.”

OpenTable Delivers

OpenTable partnered with Caviar, Grubhub and Uber Eats to offer delivery and pick-up options at thousands of restaurants on OpenTable’s newly updated iOS app. 

“Sometimes plans change or the weather doesn't cooperate. Instead of canceling their reservation, diners can now enjoy the meal they had planned from home,” said Joseph Essas, CTO, OpenTable. “Our goal is to make OpenTable the go-to app for all dining occasions. Adding delivery is an important next step.” 


“While we know that our diners love to join us to get the full restaurant experience, we understand they need options for when they can't make it in,” said Dan Simons, Co-owner & Founder, Farmers Restaurant Group. “Delivery through OpenTable gives us the flexibility to attract and serve diners, no matter where they are and how they want their meal.”

When searching for a restaurant or visiting a restaurant profile page on OpenTable’s iOS app, diners will see a “Get it delivered” button or carousel. Diners who choose delivery are then directed to the restaurant’s preferred partner(s) to complete the transaction. For restaurants with multiple delivery partners, OpenTable shows each choice. At launch, Caviar, Grubhub and Uber Eats will power delivery for over 8,000 restaurants across 90 metros in the U.S. on the OpenTable iOS app. Future features will include estimated delivery time and cost. 

"From the very start, Caviar has been focused on building a network of the best local restaurants in every neighborhood," said Laura Englander, Business Development & Strategy Lead at Caviar. "We're proud to be teaming up with OpenTable to help even more diners discover and order from the most crave-worthy restaurants in their communities."

"We want to make it incredibly easy for diners to discover new Grubhub restaurants and order their favorite dishes on all the digital channels they visit when they’re hungry," said Goody Seif, Senior Director of Business Development at Grubhub. "By partnering with OpenTable, we're also helping our restaurant partners reach more diners with delivery when a visit to the restaurant or a reservation isn’t available."

“At Eats, we’re always thinking about how to improve our customers’ and partners’ experiences,” said Jeremy Downs, Director of Business Development at Uber Eats. “That’s why we’re so excited to partner with OpenTable to deliver meals to millions of diners from their favorite restaurants.”

OpenTable also announced the launch of its redesigned iOS and Android app, which provides more relevant, personalized options to help expedite the decision-making process. The new homescreen features dynamic, data-backed recommendations tailored to each diner based on past bookings, favorites, and other insights to provide a personalized in-app experience. Diners can also vote a restaurant up or down to improve recommendations and make the app smarter over time.

Olo's Expo Debuts

Olo's  Expo, its tablet-based order manager, is available for all customers to use. Expo allows restaurant brands and their Front-of-House (FOH) staff to actively manage and ‘expedite’ digital orders on the fly. Orders from direct and indirect channels appear in a single, consolidated stream regardless of how orders are placed and how they are handed off.


The only fully sanctioned order manager of its kind, Expo is a modern progressive web application designed to provide lightweight access to the digital ordering tools Olo brands already use. Expo works as a standalone system or in conjunction with dozens of popular Point of Sale (POS) systems already integrated with Olo’s digital ordering platform. Expo is fully device and operating system agnostic, allowing restaurants to choose the device that best suits their needs. Take a tour of Expo >>

Expo’s public release follows two years of R&D and testing with beta partners. It allows for effortless order and store management of the day’s orders to drive sales and guest satisfaction. Whether orders are picked up in-store, curbside, drive-thru, or sent out for delivery with an in-house or third-party courier, Expo is a window to all orders originating outside the restaurant. It is the only sanctioned order management solution of its kind on the market, offering proper two-way integration to popular marketplaces and DSPs that together enable delivery access to the majority of the U.S. population.

“Digital ordering has been exploding in popularity and calls for new ways for restaurant teams to manage growing demand,” said Noah Glass, Founder & CEO of Olo. “We’re thrilled to invest in our platform on our customers’ behalf to bring agility to in-store operations with Expo.”

While most of Olo’s technology offerings are designed to integrate directly into existing systems, the company built Expo to add new layers of visibility and order management for in-store teams. Brands can use Expo to: 

  • Manage the entire flow of orders from direct (brand apps and website) and indirect (third-party marketplace) channels
  • Early fire an order if a customer arrives ahead of schedule
  • Interface to delivery couriers via approved integrations with Delivery Service Providers (DSPs) such as Caviar, DoorDash, Postmates, Uber Eats, etc.
  • Preview upcoming orders and be alerted of large orders
  • Answer inquiries about recently fulfilled orders

Earl Enterprises is one of several companies using Expo in select locations.

“Our restaurants using Expo are thrilled to have the information and tools they need at their fingertips,” said Josi Rodriguez, Marketing Manager at Earl Enterprises. “At our training visits, we saw an immediate improvement in how orders are executed to save our team members’ time and energy.” Expo is available  for all Olo customers to leverage at no additional cost.

Revel Partners Up

Revel Systems announced details of the Revel Solution Partner program, an initiative designed to increase the company’s sales reach and provide local, on-the-ground resources in more markets.

Candidates joining the Revel Solution Partner program will be equipped to easily manage the end-to-end sales process for Revel Essentials™, the cloud-based POS designed for small to midsize businesses. Revel is introducing the following program benefits for authorized solution partners:

  • Program economics designed to drive increased earnings for partners
  • Qualified partners can also sell Revel’s payment processing solution, Revel Advantage to their sales portfolio and further increase their earning potential through revenue sharing
  • Partners can manage the sales process through an online portal, making it easy to do business with Revel

“Restaurants and retailers now rely on technology more than ever to be successful, and local partner support is critical for customers to get maximum value from their technology investment,” said Chris Lybeer, chief strategy officer at Revel Systems. “We designed our new program so our solution partners can generate healthy revenue from our cloud-based software-as-a-service offerings.”

Coming Soon to Boca — Restaurant Row

Prakas & Co.. achieved the largest multi-unit restaurant leasing assignment in Boca Raton history at what is to be Restaurant Row. Located in Midtown Boca Raton, Restaurant Row, top image, slated for completion in the first quarter of 2020, will be Boca Raton’s first restaurant-only driven complex. Athan “Tom” Prakas, owner of Prakas & Co., is the exclusive broker for the deal. 

Located directly across from Town Center Mall at Boca Raton’s Nordstrom entrance, Restaurant Row will feature 22,500 square feet of total restaurant space. Prakas & Co. is pre-leasing these spaces to upscale restaurants, which will shape the next phase of the up-and-coming Midtown Boca Raton project. 

Developed by Crocker Partners, Restaurant Row, a one-story new construction project, will be located at 5355 Town Center Road, Boca Raton, 33486, on the site of The Plaza office building.

Predicted to attract the more than 14 million annual visitors to Town Center Mall, Restaurant Row will be a hotspot in midtown Boca Raton, which is emerging as a hub for entertainment, dining and shopping. 

“I am pleased to continue to help high-profile restaurants locate to Midtown Boca Raton at Restaurant Row by achieving this largest multi-unit restaurant leasing assignment in the history of the city,” said Prakas. 

Arbella’s Got Edge

The Arbella Insurance Group launched Arbella Edge for Restaurants, a comprehensive coverage endorsement available to owners of individual restaurants and small to mid-size chains operating in MA, CT, RI and NH. This product ireplaces Arbella’s existing Dining Advantage endorsement and offers combined property and general liability coverage for new customers and current policy holders who need increased limits for a broader array of coverages. Additionally, Arbella has broadened the coverage offered through its Restaurants Spotlight endorsement to include reimbursement for losses incurred by restaurant owners due to Food Contamination and Boil Water Orders put in place by local municipalities.

“While fire is a primary concern, it’s just one of many risks facing restaurants today,” said John Donohue, President and CEO of Arbella Insurance Group. “Arbella knows that today’s business owners must protect themselves from other exposures directly related to restaurant activities.” We are proud to offer a complete and comprehensive product like Arbella Edge, which gives restaurant owners the peace of mind that their business will recover, no matter what types of losses are incurred.”

The suite of coverage in Arbella’s Arbella Edge for Restaurants also provides policyholders with assistance when losses are associated with, but not limited to, the following: 

Food Contamination: Covers certain costs associated with a Public Health Authority requiring that operations be suspended due to the discovery of, suspicion of, or exposure to “food contamination” at the described premises. 

Boil Water Order: Covers losses incurred due to the “suspension” of “operations” at the described premises caused by or resulting from a municipal “boil-water order.”

Restaurant Wine Stock: Covers the value of a policyholders’ restaurant wine stock in the event of loss or damage resulting from a specified loss at the described premises.

Spoilage: Covers losses due to change in temperature or humidity from mechanical breakdown or failure of refrigeration, cooling or humidity control apparatus or equipment due to conditions beyond the policyholder’s control. 

Credit Card Forgery: Covers losses due to the good faith acceptance of credit card payment in exchange for merchandise, money or services as part of a normal business transaction. 

“Like most business owners, restaurant owners have plenty of things to worry about,” said Jeff Witt, AVP Commercial Lines, Research and Development, Arbella Insurance Group. “Having the right type of insurance policy and coverage amounts to properly protect themselves and their employees shouldn’t be one of them, yet it’s as critical to the business as having fresh food and positive reviews. With Arbella Edge, we’ve created a straightforward product that’s tailor-made for individual restaurants and small to mid-size chains.”

Lunchbox Rolls Out

Lunchbox, the “Shopify for restaurants,” debuted its omnichannel digital platform for the food industry–desgned to make it affordable for restaurants to bring digital ordering to their customers directly–via mobile app, web, and in-shop kiosks–as well as built-in, automated marketing campaigns so restaurants can build their businesses and reward regulars. Lunchbox also integrates with “last mile” delivery companies, like Relay, when eateries don’t have their own delivery staff.

“For the past twenty years, third-party ordering apps such as Seamless have charged participating restaurants hefty fees–around 30%–leaving food providers a mere 5% in profits off those online orders. Additionally, these third-party ordering apps don’t share customer data with restaurants, which would allow them to send deals to customers,” said Andrew Boryk, co-founder and CEO of Lunchbox. “Lunchbox equalizes the playing field by offering an easy, affordable range of services that weren’t within reach before, whether it was a lack of business development savvy or coding skills.” 

After a soft launch in February, Lunchbox has signed more than 100 restaurants nationwide, including major chains like Bareburger, Sticky’s and 16 Handles. Participating restaurants have been able to boost online order revenue by 25% per month, create on-brand menus, and engage customers through easy-to-execute email marketing campaigns–an expertise that restaurants generally lack.

“We needed a white-label digital platform that would help Bareburger meet the needs of the modern customer, but found that there were no affordable, omni-channel Software-as-a-Service solutions on the market. Our options were to either spend a million dollars on building out an ordering platform and hire a marketer, or contract upwards of five different firms that would work in silos,” said Euripides Pelekanos, CEO of Bareburger. “Lunchbox is the first provider to offer it all, with packaged options that let us–not other companies–serve our customers directly and access food trends data to learn more about them, without the overhead of on-staff developers or marketing professionals. Since we’ve started using the service, we are on track to save $1.86M annually.”

In addition to its user-friendly features on the seller side, customers can enjoy the same benefits of third-party ordering apps, like tracking their meal in real time and earning points toward rewards programs.

Joella's Hot Chicken Expands Footprint

Joella’s Hot Chicken plans to open nine new stores in the Southeast and Midwest by the end of 2019. The expansion will increase the restaurant’s footprint to five states and reinforces Joella’s as the largest hot chicken restaurant brand in the United States. 

Four of the new stores will open throughout metropolitan Atlanta in Cumberland, Kennesaw, Woodstock and Newnan; and three new stores will open in Florida’s Melbourne, Largo and Seminole communities. Additionally, Joella’s has signed leases for a third Cincinnati-area location in Mason, Ohio and Indiana’s fourth location in Fort Wayne. 

Truck Driver Hall of Fame Honorees


 US Foods Holding Corp. said eight of its drivers were named to the 2019 class of the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA) Truck Driver Hall of Fame. 


The honored US Foods drivers are: 

  • Percy Ardion of Houston
  • Phillip Bachor of Albuquerque
  • William “Ray” Boruff of Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Glenn Fisher of Altoona, Pennsylvania
  • Robert “Andy” Fitzgerald of Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Gaylen Giffin of Altoona, Pennsylvania
  • Larry “Denver” Jiles of Atlanta
  • Roger Lusk of Lubbock, Texas

“At US Foods, we are committed to developing a team of highly skilled and trained drivers who are committed to putting the safety of our employees, customers and fellow drivers first,” said Mary Zmuda, vice president of safety for US Foods. “The drivers honored have clearly demonstrated this commitment in practice as they serve our operators each day. We are very proud of their accomplishments.”


Only truck drivers with the best safety records and longevity of service are eligible for the IFDA Truck Driver Hall of Fame. Drivers must have at least 25 years of employment with an IFDA member company with no chargeable accidents and may not have any moving violations within the last five years.