GoTab’s transactions make social distancing easier

Before the coronavirus upended the food service industry, GoTab was a humble startup making it easier for customers inside a restaurant or bar to place an order for their table. Users would simply scan a QR code with their phones, order and pay—without having to flag down waitstaff, and without downloading an app.

But protective measures to slow the spread of the pandemic grew stricter and stricter. Soon enough, no one was dining in restaurants or sitting in bars in D.C., nor much of the rest of the country. With the utility of GoTab’s main feature out the window, the Arlington-based startup had to adapt to the new normal.

As restaurants are forced to operate in a takeout or delivery-only capacity, and with social distancing making transactions difficult, GoTab has found a niche in facilitating contactless ordering and payment of customers still patronizing local businesses.

“You can basically place all your orders on your phone, and they can be brought to you with clean, sterilized hands. And then you’re not really passing credit cards. You’re not really doing any of those things,” GoTab founder and CEO Tim McLaughlin told DC Inno. “There’s no shared point of sale terminal for the staff. So they’re also not touching shared things between each other. The sanitation was never a designed intent feature of our product, but it’s just how it works.”

As for GoTab’s delivery feature, it didn’t exist before the strict social distancing guidelines. It was a capability that the company was working on and planned to release later this year. When D.C. restaurants were ordered to close their dining rooms on March 16, GoTab decided to push it out early. Delivery was online by the end of the next week, McLaughlin said.

Coronavirus aside, McLaughlin hopes that GoTab’s delivery feature will rival that of gig-based apps like UberEats and DoorDash. Delivery with GoTab relies on the restaurants to provide their own drivers, which allows the businesses to avoid the large commission (typically between 10 and 30 percent) that the other apps take out of a sale.

Amid the pandemic, GoTab has been waiving its usual $600 fee to activate the suite of services. Beyond that, the cost to restaurants is typically around 1 percent of the sales cost, McLaughlin said, at least for single-location restaurants. Larger restaurant groups with multiple locations—like ThinkFoodGroup and Farmers Restaurant Group, which have been using GoTa heavily, according to Washingtonian—will have some extra fees in order to use the service’s enterprise feature.

Despite the price reduction for many new customers, GoTab’s revenue has shot up, McLaughlin said. He claims the company’s revenue increased fivefold within two weeks.

“Realize, we’re a digital only system, meaning that we’re all online all the time. And obviously, even though the restaurant business has gone down, their percentage of e-commerce transactions has gone up to pretty much 100 percent,” McLaughlin said. That’s despite the fact that retail and food service sales dropped nationally by 8.7 percent from February to March, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As for businesses that rely heavily on dine-in, McLaughlin says GoTab hasn’t lost those customers since GoTab doesn’t cost them anything while they’re not using it, as opposed to many traditional point-of-sale systems.

Still, as a startup, GoTab took some precautionary cost-cutting measures when the coronavirus’s economic damage started to become clear. From the 23-person team, GoTab had to let go one contractor and one employee focused on on-premise support. Additionally, the senior executive team of four people took voluntary pay cuts.

“Not that we’re getting paid well anyway—we’re a startup—but we did what we could to reduce our operational costs. But we already operate pretty darn lean,” McLaughlin said.

That’s not to say hiring has stopped. GoTab is looking to grow its headcount with more team members in development, customer service, graphic design and operations roles.

Despite the momentary rearrangement of GoTab’s business model, McLaughlin still sees a future where the company’s primary focus is on-premise ordering, the capability that launched the startup.

“Once we get past this, we still think there’s a time and a place to go out to places. And I’m sure everybody right now is starting to get tired of sitting at home all the time,” McLaughlin said. “The technology works in both situations. It’s the same technology.”

By Zaid Shoorbajee -April 30, 2020

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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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