Behind Company Lines Interviews Tim McLaughlin, GoTab Founder & CEO

Our CEO and Co-Founder recently talked with the Behind Company Lines Podcast where he talked about our design philosophy around restaurant and kitchen operations; i.e., as one part factory and another part artist’s studio. Because personal service is wonderful when it’s available, but disappointing when it’s not. Most of us go out with hopes that we’ll be taken care of, but it’s important that operators give guests the ability to take care of themselves if no server is available. 

How integral is each step to what the guest is going to experience over all?

At GoTab we spend a ton of time thinking about how to shave off 15 seconds. For example, communicating on the floor of a restaurant to a manager that a guest is unhappy take anywhere from 15-30 seconds. If you add that up over an entire dinner service, that can add up to 20-30 minutes. You compound those numbers day-after day, month-after-month and it creates a lot of losses, and dissatisfaction. Time studies in a factory are a great example of how to think about it. There’s a lot of opportunity in restaurants to improve those things.

What are some of the common bad experiences that guests have and why do they persist?

GoTab was doing QR ordering to table in 2018, which was virtually first to market here in N. America. We originally started in 2016 trying to solve the payment problem because it’s the most thankless process in the dining experience. It’s really a major pain point in most dining experiences. But changing habits wasn’t doable in 2016. When we added QR ordering, everyone thought we were crazy. We had a hard time convincing people that ordering on their phone was a good thing. So we focused on the places we could “scratch an itch”. Like large patios, and outdoor dining locations where people have to come into the venue to get another drink. Our argument back then was staff can’t be everywhere at one time. Inevitably, something happens and now your guest’s night is impacted because they can’t get any service. 

We found prior to COVID, that QR ordering broke down massively in the kitchen and the bar. The reason it broke down, and frankly nobody had figured this out, is that the operation in a full service kitchen and even a bar are not designed for high volume. In the old model, you can restrict the flow of orders to the kitchen by virtue of just having a few registers or a handful of servers. The good news with GoTab is that you can create more sales. But the other side of that is that you then have to fulfill those sales and most restaurants weren’t built to handle that.

A new kitchen operating model

We recognized the fulfillment problem before most others and built an entirely new kitchen operational model, a KDS. It originally came out of QSR, where they were trying to move very quickly and therefore they weren’t adopted in nicer restaurants. If you talked to many chefs three years ago, they didn’t want screens in the kitchen. We ended up redoing all of that. We ended up building screens that design when and where things go dynamically, that handle surges in orders, and set expectations about pacing. All those systems came out during COVID and it was very critical because there were limited employees and massive surges of ordering volume. So we ended up building the KDS; i.e., our system  that drives what you make, when you make it, how long it’s going to take, tells the guest the status of what you’re making, all from the kitchen based on real-time feedback.

How does that improve higher-end experiences with adopting technology and implementing those systems?

There are a ton of gains, and still objections, in the higher end restaurants. They still like printed tickets. But think about it: there’s no factory anywhere that runs on paper. It doesn’t sound sexy or nostalgic to talk about computer screens guiding your chef. They are artisans when they’re creating recipes. But when a cook is executing a recipe, you want them to follow the exact recipe and steps that the chef designed.

Using our KDS, we’ve been able to cut food running labor requirements in half. That’s a big savings. Not only that, it’s a better experience because if two people are sitting at the same table, and the restaurant is using batching capabilities, even though they order at different times, both guests can get beers at the same time.

How do you go about thinking about all the abstract data around ordering and kitchen operations, not to mention getting the restaurants to think about it?

Coming from a web and commerce design online system, there’s a lot of analytics that goes into that. Restaurants generally do not think about that data. They find it a curious idea. However, there’s so much more basic stuff they need to focus on with current problems like a labor shortage. There is a ton of opportunity in harvesting the data GoTab has. But that’s a longer term thing that we’re hoping to help operators take advantage of.

Right now, we’re working on our first fine dining groups. It’s historically more nostalgic. They have the money and time to have good servers and good staff. But all these kitchen efficiencies are benefiting them. What fine dining restaurateur wouldn’t say, “I want a more predictable output with more efficiency in my kitchen”? For example, we just rolled out a functionality around an ability to course small plates table-side through our Handheld POS. The average POS isn’t designed for small plate coursing. Operators are really excited about the efficiencies they gain, from reducing the time to enter the courses from 3 minutes to 10 seconds, to avoiding the eventual errors that happen. We’re also getting huge uptick in eatertainment venues where there’s multiple activations within a location.

Thanks to Julian Torres over at Behind Company Lines for a great conversation. You can get the full audio at

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Situated “in the heart of it all, yet tranquil enough to make you feel away from it all too,” The Limelight Hotel Snowmass offers 99 hotel rooms and 11 residences, as well as footsteps-to-gondola access in winter and summer — right in the middle of Snowmass Base Village.

The Situation

Especially over the last few years, the Limelight Hotels IT team had witnessed a significant shift to contactless technology in the hospitality industry. After evaluating friction points in the guest journey, aligning with modern technology platforms in their restaurant was determined to be an effective way to offer elevated contactless dining experiences to their guests while also evolving their technology platforms to continue to support long-term company goals. Limelight Hotel partnered with GoTab to provide an enhanced on-demand dining experience on par with the brand’s reputation for exceptional guest service.

The Solution

Reducing Staff Touch Points Without Sacrificing Guest Experience

Guests are now able to begin a tab from their room or the property’s restaurant by scanning a QR code, texting a link to friends or family members on the ski slope to add in their orders, then meeting up together at the patio or lodge to enjoy their meal and après ski festivities without interruption. By streamlining tasks like inputting orders and processing payments, this eliminates friction for hotel staff and allows them to focus on delivering renowned guest service for a memorable experience. Since partnering with GoTab, Limelight Snowmass has consistently seen higher check averages and sales.

“We found the Point of Sale platforms we were looking at offered the guest and staff limited opportunities to further reduce touch points or improve the traditional restaurant experience. The GoTab platform enabled the guest to take an active role over the flow of their experience while simultaneously reducing touch points and further streamlining restaurant operations.”Nick Giglio, Manager of Hotel IT Operations, The Little Nell Hotel Group

According to the Limelight Hotels team, some of the other platforms that were evaluated were either missing some of the pieces they were looking for, had weak customer support models, or had little willingness to develop integrations to existing hotel platforms already in place. To that end, GoTab integrated with cloud-based platform, Infor. Together, GoTab and Infor are providing dynamic solutions to support central, efficient service across hotel amenities and deliver exceptional guest experiences.

“Previously, guests would call down to the restaurant to begin an order from their room or while they were out enjoying the ski slopes. Using GoTab, guests can now place orders from anywhere on the resort, giving them the on-demand service they want without interrupting their day. GoTab empowers us to give control to the guest, reducing touch points and streamlining overall restaurant operations, making Limelight Hotel the resort of choice for Snowmass.”Nick Giglio, Manager of Hotel IT Operations, The Little Nell Hotel Group

Since introducing GoTab, The Limelight Hotel has seen a consistent level of upsells and items sold per check resulting in additional revenue capture. They have been able to maintain service levels in their restaurants during periods when there was reduced staffing available without significantly diminishing the guest experience.

The Benefits

Eliminate Phone Orders – Take Orders from the Slopes. Guests can start a tab from their room or on the mountain without interrupting the flow of their day.

Future-Proofed Technologies – Delivering elevated contactless ordering via integration with the Infor hotel management platform.

Eliminating Friction in the Guest Journey – Maintaining service levels during periods of reduced staff without diminishing the guest experience.

  • Eliminating Friction in the Guest Journey – Maintaining service levels during periods of reduced staff without diminishing the guest experience.
  • Eliminating Friction in the Guest Journey – Maintaining service levels during periods of reduced staff without diminishing the guest experience.
  • Eliminating Friction in the Guest Journey – Maintaining service levels during periods of reduced staff without diminishing the guest experience.
  • Eliminating Friction in the Guest Journey – Maintaining service levels during periods of reduced staff without diminishing the guest experience.

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