Your cellphone: the portal to people, information, and food. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, cellphones have become the go-to place for to-go orders due to social distancing.
Ordering online is not just the now, it’s the future.
The team of innovators at Qu Beyond POS are reimagining point of sale technology. They know digital dining as more than just a buzzing trend.
“You have so many brands that are emerging as partly digital or completely digital,” said account Qu Beyond account executive Cristal Ghitman on this episode of Digital Hospitality. “In order to facilitate that, you need technology that enables that.”
Existing online as a restaurant is exactly what Qu Beyond is enabling. Offering technology that connects restaurants to customers in smooth fashion with extreme integrity, Qu Beyond is changing the game.
“Point of sale is no longer the cashier at the counter,” Cristal said. “It’s really about having a platform that allows you to take payment and lets you maintain your brand over multiple channels. What I found so incredibly compelling about Qu is that we’re reimagining the way that point of sale interacts with transactions and customers in our space and it’s really different.”
The Heart of Tech
Automated ordering and third-party delivery technology can come off as more automated and less personal. At Qu Beyond, they realize it doesn’t have to be that way.
“We’re incredibly human,” Cristal notes of the Qu Beyond team. “My executive leadership is some of the smartest I’ve ever seen in the business. We have hardcore restaurant DNA and hardcore tech DNA. We’re on a pilgrimage at Qu. Our team is thoughtful, smart, disruptive and not looking to do things that have already been done. But at the end of their day they’re human.”
So, just how is Qu Beyond giving back in this time of need? It started with tough questions and it led to smart solutions.
“A few weeks ago, the crisis hit, and sales stopped. I think we all had a hard stop and asked, ‘What can we do to get through the next few weeks and what can we do in the long term to respond to the changing needs of the business?’” Cristal says. “We looked at our technology and realized we have this incredibly nimble, agile, easy to use technology. We developed free online ordering for companies and brands who do not have it.”
But it didn’t stop there.
“The second thing we wanted to do was bridge driving revenue to restaurants and helping the first responders who are near and dear to everyone’s hearts right now,” Cristal shares. “We saw so many restaurants that were digging into their own pockets to donate food even when they were suffering. But then, there’s so many people out there who want to help. So, we developed Feed the First Responders as a humanitarian effort to connect restaurants with organizations that are first responders so people like myself can go onto our website, place an order and choose which first responders we want that meal sent to. All their cafeterias are closed, their working 18-hour days and these guys just want food. They’re so, so appreciative.”
Want to get in on feeding the first responders? Visit https://www.qubeyond.com/feedthefirstresponders and get involved.
“The more the merrier to anyone who is listening to this podcast! We are very open to bringing as many brands on as possible and feeding as many first responders as possible! Our technology is fast, and I think we can get brands on in less than 72 hours.”
“We’re just getting better and better,” Cristal says with a smile. “I truly believe that in the coming years we’re incredibly poised to respond to the needs of brands.”
Just exactly how far is Qu Beyond going in their quest to reimagine restaurants and rewrite the rules?
“Location was so important,” Cristal notes on the age-old adage. “But I think one of the things we’ll see in the next few years is that location won’t matter at all.”
Yup, while Qu Beyond is serving existing restaurants with physical locations across the country, they’re also making it possible for some of the most popular kitchens that don’t even have seats or a sign.
“Within the last few months Ghost Kitchens have probably tripled in popularity,” says Cristal of the emerging trend. “A Ghost Kitchen is just a production facility for your food. They’re manufacturing facilities that enable brands to manufacture their food for third-party and online orders from a centralized location, utilizing less resources in regard to staff and overhead cost.”
This extra lean business model is not just low on costs, it’s high on variety.
“There was a kitchen staff that was making 12 different types of food with online branding for each brand, all produced out of a manufacturing facility!” notes Cristal on a booming Ghost Kitchen. “It was all digital orders and I think there’s going to be a huge trend moving towards that.”
Operating a Ghost Kitchen doesn’t just allow one space to make multiple genres of food, it allows each genre to birth new brands.
“There’s actually a couple of kitchens that have pivoted to launching separate brands because they were able to segment their larger menu and then make some changes from a culinary standpoint to make a great new brand.”
Essentially, the digital data provided by online ordering powered by popular dishes crafted at Ghost Kitchens is allowing the emergence of what’s becoming the SEO of food.
“I think you’re also going to see brands that are taking their menu, segmenting it, and creating a new brand off some of their most popular items,” Cristal points out. “I think that’s going to be a trend that absolutely continues.”
Basically, if an Italian restaurant ranks high for pizza and pasta but serves a beloved chicken parmesan sandwich, online ordering allows them to create a new brand focusing on chicken sandwiches, so they rank higher in search for said craving.
Even for restaurants that aren’t looking to launch multiple brands, Qu Beyond has them covered. Allowing restaurants to control their menus over multiple channels, their technology is adding integrity and making it easier to edit when prices, pictures, and items change.
“At Qu, we’ve coined the term ‘menu mayhem,’” says Cristal. “One of the biggest issues is managing multiple menus over all your different channels. At the end of the day, all these different systems of ordering don’t talk to each other. It’s a nightmare from the programming standpoint and on the backend the reconciliation is a nightmare.”
Programming menus among multiple apps and channels is time consuming and frustrating. Add in all the uncertainty and hurdles of the COVID crisis and it’s even more to handle.
“Margins are important right now – you need to be squeezing every penny more than ever,” emphasizes Cristal. “How do I get the data that I need to survive this crisis and beyond? Qu has some really fundamental strategies behind that. We want to make it as easy as possible that when you want to program an item it speaks to all your channels and it’s very, very easy. The ease of the technology at Qu for operators keeps your brand consistent. We really want to make sure that you can have the most consistent brand relationship with your customers as possible.”
That consistency is huge, especially in the world of third-party delivery apps where customer contact and hospitality are essentially outsourced.
“You already have to let go of so much control of your brand and product when you’re working in the digital world,” Cristal says. “It’s so hard to maintain the integrity of your own brand in the digital world that if your technology doesn’t enable that what are you left with?”
Fortunately, Qu Beyond POS is adding integrity to brands online by making menus more uniform and assisting the customer in their search for all their food needs.
“We allow people to search by nutritional information and we allow brands to control all their imagery in our backend that’s pushed to all channels.”
Controlling imagery is of high importance in the world of online food. Interfaces for online menus, Uber Eats, DoorDash and all the platforms a restaurant exists in online can create menu mayhem in regard to imagery. Thanks to Qu Beyond’s Dynamic Context technology, they can fit your menu to each platform from pricing to imagery.
So, in this time of pivot what advice does Cristal have for owning your brand online and making the most of your margins?
How to Own Your Brand Online:
- Personalize Your Package – Third party apps make it possible for customers to consume your food from afar, but the biggest cost is the loss of personalized hospitality. It doesn’t have to be that way. By adding a Thank You note or a coupon, or even utilizing branded packaging details, you can create a stronger connection with your customer despite the distance.
- Get in the Ghost Kitchen Game – Whether offering your space to an online brand or upping your output by partnering with a manufacturing facility, a Ghost Kitchen can increase your reach and revenue. The costs are low, and the opportunities are endless.
- Build New Brands – Have a BBQ restaurant that serves savory tator tots? Why not start a digital brand built around your tots? Winning the search game allows you to better reach a new audience who might want your niche even more than your bread and butter.
- Be Consistent – Consistency is the hallmark of integrity and it matters just as much online as it does in real life. Make sure that your menus, messaging and quality are uniform across all channels. Too much work to do on your own? Contact Qu Beyond to make it happen.
“You really shouldn’t have to spend your entire day or resources on being the database administrator for your technology,” notes Cristal.
What’s Next for POS Technology?
The food industry is changing at lightspeed. While Qu Beyond POS is a leader on what’s now, they’re also looking ahead to what’s next.
So, could cash be a thing of the past?
“From a POS standpoint, a lot of fast casual and quick service are moving to cashless and no contact,” says Cristal. “Those are all things we either currently have or are exploring across a number of modes.”
Could full service eventually be cashless?
“Who knows?!” Cristal exclaims. “Table service is going to change and who knows what the future of it is. From Day 1, we’re always enterprise focused and fast casual focused and it’s worked really well for us.”
Contact with cash could be a thing of the past. Contact with fingers to a phone could even be on the way out, too.
“Voice technology is something that we’re really heavily focused on right now,” Cristal shares. “Voice ordering is already here, but it’s something that we think is going to be even more important in the future.”
While cashless payment and voice ordering may be the wave of the future, Cristal is smart to mention that full-service restaurants are going to have to go digital as we come out of the current crisis.
“If we’re going to be forced to keep tables six feet apart and people can’t crowd at a bar to watch football on a Sunday, full-service restaurants will have to pivot and become more of a virtual brand,” Cristal states. “You cannot sustain what are already incredibly tight margins in our industry with 50% less people in your restaurant. I think the digital strategy is going to be absolutely critical.”