History is filled with examples of someone taking an existing product and making it better. For instance, when Bernard D. Sadow attached a long strap and wheels to a suitcase and patented it in 1972 as the Rolling Luggage. Innovators yesterday and today have a drive to make everyday occurrences less cumbersome.
For Tim McLaughlin, he combined his background in eCommerce and as a mechanical engineer with his future endeavor ― a restaurant and brewery ― and was able create a program to streamline restaurant commerce for today’s purveyors.
In this Q&A with Beverage Industry, the GoTab CEO and founder details what prompted his influence for the company and how today’s foodservice and on-premise trends have evolved in wake of the pandemic and other consumer trends.
BI: You founded GoTab back in 2016. Can you share what motivated you to enter the software solution realm?
TM: The idea for GoTab culminated after my wife and I opened our first restaurant and brewery, Caboose Brewing Co., in Northern Virginia in 2015. We were really successful and struggled with handling long lines. Having spent the previous 15 years growing a thriving eCommerce agency, I immediately saw areas where our own restaurant could improve operationally while still maintaining its high-quality service, and then became dedicated to creating a solution to infill these missing needs in the market. We started by providing QR codes to allow guests a faster, easier way to pay. We then added QR ordering, and reordering without having to flag down a server ― years before this became more prevalent during the pandemic. Since then, GoTab has evolved into a holistic restaurant commerce platform, including adding full kitchen management features as well as an API to facilitate important back-of-house integrations so operators can optimize guest experiences and business efficiencies.
Through GoTab, we are empowering high-volume, large format restaurants, breweries, food halls, bars and other food and beverage venues to run lean, profitable operations through our cloud-based POS and digital kitchen display system, while also delivering an innovative, on-demand guest experience through our mobile ordering and payment capabilities. As a result, operators have achieved tangible sales growth, labor savings and increased guest loyalty.
BI: How can GoTab not only support restaurants but breweries and other operators in the beverage market?
TM: In addition to restaurants, GoTab’s unique solutions support breweries, food halls, bars, and hotel and event food and beverage retailers, among others. This past year, we leveled up our all-in-one point-of-sale (POS) functionality to further help these businesses increase sales, reduce costs, and deliver better hospitality to their guests, enabled by easy-to-use and easy-to-onboard technology. Through enhancing our existing POS software with unmatched order management and flexible tab-based ordering, plus centralized menu management, kitchen display system (KDS) functionality, integration capabilities with other restaurant technology systems and more, our handheld POS has become an essential part of a business’s steps of service. For breweries specifically, GoTab is transforming the traditional yet outdated way of service with modern efficiency. Historically, small- and large- size taprooms facilitated all food and drink orders from the bar, where guests would wait nearby or receive a pager to notify them when their order was ready. Anytime they wanted to order something else, the same process would occur: get in line, place the order, return to their seat, and wait. Through GoTab technology, modern breweries are making this process easier for guests and employees ― using on-premise mobile ordering and payment at the table to eliminate long lines, lower labor and food costs and increase transactions.
BI: As more consumers and businesses embrace digital solutions, what is the appetite for software solutions for the foodservice and on-premise channels that support this trend?
TM: As industry challenges such as labor shortages, inflation, and other operational complexities continue to impact restaurants, breweries, hotels, and other venues, brands will continue to invest in software solutions both on- and off-premise to alleviate these pressures while streamlining operations for a better guest experience. GoTab is one of the only restaurant commerce platforms that gives guests complete control over their dining experience, a differentiator as consumers lean into the convenience of digital. Especially in the instance of labor shortages and increased popularity of takeout and delivery, there is a crucial need for operators to provide guests with a seamless and unique dining experience to keep them dining out. We’ve seen incredibly positive responses to our solutions that focus on helping managers and their teams not only communicate with each other, but the guests as well. We find that guests are actually more flexible when you communicate things in a timely manner, however, up until this point that would require a staff member spending time walking over to a table, addressing the issue at hand (i.e., a menu item being out of stock,) and then walking back over to the kitchen to relay how the guest would like to proceed. With GoTab, this time spent is cut down drastically due to our technology allowing team members to communicate with guests via text, providing real-time updates on their order, while simultaneously 86’ing the menu item from the digital menu, preventing the issue from happening to additional guests.
BI: Beyond what we’ve discussed, what upcoming trends should operators keep an eye on when it comes to streamlining their commerce experience with consumers?
TM: As guests continue to gravitate toward contactless and digital experiences, POS trends will have to follow suit. Looking ahead, I believe there will be an increase in on-premise mobile ordering capabilities that will empower operators with the flexibility to serve guests the way they want. Whether it’s the ability to manage their own tabs, including reorders and checkout, without having to flag down employees for assistance, or ordering the traditional way through a server, or a combination of both. Not only does this meet the real-time needs and expectations of guests, but it also frees up time for team members so that they can focus on making meaningful interactions and ultimately memorable experiences for guests. This is something operators across industries should keep an eye on as digital becomes more relevant on-premise. Looking ahead, I also foresee new innovations emerging aimed at further optimizing kitchen and back-of-house operations. For example, I believe we will begin to see more companies using KDS (Kitchen Display Systems) instead of, or in addition to printed order tickets in the kitchen. At GoTab, we’re currently working on enhancing our KDS with voice automation in place of text updates on a screen, helping to streamline operations within the kitchen and making it easier for kitchen staff to coordinate and deliver quality food and service.