We talked to Tim McLaughlin of GoTab about contactless ordering and payment and he had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tim McLaughlin: We’ve been running full sprints since the beginning of the year. To explain why I’m going to take a step back and talk about where we started. In 2016 we launched as a mobile payments company and over the years evolved to become an end-to-end contactless ordering and payment platform. Our vision has always been to bring an eCommerce experience to hospitality. So, think about how easy it is to order online from Amazon or Target. Imagine if you could bring that same experience to dining in a restaurant. That’s what GoTab delivers.
Before the pandemic, we were a niche for large breweries and restaurants in high-wage areas of the country. They needed a way to serve a lot of guests in a large area without adding more staff. The fact that we were “contactless” wasn’t necessarily a feature of the product; it was just the way we worked. With the pandemic, suddenly everyone needed what we had to offer. That led to a huge influx of new prospects and customers, and we finally have hired up to meet the demand.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded GoTab.
Tim McLaughlin: The idea for GoTab started when I co-opened my first restaurant and brewery in 2015. It had been a passion project in the works for many years.
I spent the previous 15 years growing and successfully exiting a thriving e-commerce technology agency and immediately saw areas where my new restaurant could improve operationally. At the same time, I noticed they could maintain high-quality standards and service. My agency clients included many high-touch service businesses such as Mandarin Oriental Hotels, Goldman Sachs, Sotheby’s Auction, and similar, so I was very familiar with bespoke service.
How does GoTab innovate?
Tim McLaughlin: It always starts with our operators. We like to say we are technology by restaurateurs for restaurateurs. A good example is our partnership with Founding Farmers Restaurant Group. Within a week of the shutdown, we helped them stand up a restaurant grocery and eCommerce store where they now offer thousands of products, meal kits, and specialty items for curbside pickup and delivery from their six locations across MD/DC/VA. It’s been really great to be able to help operators like Founding Farmers adjust in record time so that they can continue to serve their communities and have as many of their staff as possible keep working.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Tim McLaughlin: We work with our hospitality operators to help them confront new challenges every day. Whether it’s shifting to outdoor dining, or creating Ghost Kitchens and Drop Zones, our operators are very creative and are always working with us to adapt our platform to help. So that means we have to spend a lot of time listening and prioritizing their needs in line with our own product vision.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Tim McLaughlin: At the beginning of the pandemic, we had to make headcount reductions. Our executives took pay cuts because our product has historically been focused on dine-in for 80% of revenue and 20% for takeout and delivery. We took advantage of the Payroll Protection Program. Beyond that, our entire organization shifted to sales and product development. Everyone was dedicated to either onboarding new operators or updating the platform. Long hours indeed.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Tim McLaughlin: I’ve been in a “stressful” job my whole life (or jobs, really, since I’ve started 7 companies). In fact, I learned in college that if I don’t have enough stress, I tend to get distracted. I’m not really sure how to live any other way.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Tim McLaughlin: Our operators have a lot of choices, not least of which the legacy point of sale (POS) solution providers with well-known brands and deep pockets, but really none of them does what we do. We call ourselves a restaurant commerce platform with some POS capabilities because GoTab can handle any sort of buying experience in a seamless fashion. Most importantly GoTab gives our operators unmatched flexibility to serve guests (contactless order & pay), manage their operations (kitchen operations and inventory features), and market more effectively (access to first-party customer data for opted-in guests). And that’s just the beginning.
Our big idea is to make the division between eCommerce and real-life commerce disappear. It should be easy for a customer to walk into a store with “items” in their digital cart and have a conversation with a staff member about those “items” without missing a beat. Then pick up a few physical items, while the staff tweaks their order, to have the rest delivered. And all the while, never having to worry about the payment, because that is automatic.
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