If you’ve ever read The Little Engine That Could, you likely know all about the power of optimism and perseverance.
Much like the little engine pulling the big train over the mountain, mom-and-pop restaurants are helping massive chains rebuild an industry ravaged by an event no one expected. Although there are still issues to iron out, restaurants, bars, and cafes are in a much better position to succeed than at the start of 2022.
At the same time, birdbill is also a little engine that could if you think about it. In the last 12 months, we’ve doubled the size of our team, added new features to the app, and created partnerships with several POS providers. Companies like ours are building tools to optimize restaurant operations while providing guests new ways to enjoy the dining experience.
Recently, we asked birdbill Founder and CEO Dominika Glueck to share her thoughts about what she saw in 2022 and what 2023 looks like for the app and the industry. Needless to say, she’s ready for the future and for birdbill to spread its wings.
What concerns did you see in the restaurant industry in 2022?
I think 2022 was a recovery year for restaurants and the hospitality industry.
After two years of closures, restrictions, and pivots, businesses that survived finally got a chance to rebuild and flourish. People were much more comfortable dining out and socializing, so we’ve seen many new concepts opening. Whether it’s a new neighborhood restaurant replacing one that unfortunately closed during the pandemic, or a new bar with pickleball courts, there was no shortage of places to visit last year.
So, it isn’t surprising to see venues facing labor shortages. They will have to get creative and work hard to find new staff and train them properly. The rising costs of ingredients and labor is another challenge the industry faces, especially as patrons become increasingly price-sensitive.
When social distancing was enforced, we saw a lot of businesses lean on technology and innovation, including solutions that promoted contactless menus and payments. Unfortunately, not all were ready to scale and serve real-life restaurant needs. The consequence was a bad experience that left restaurateurs wary of technology and QR codes and wanting to return to the way things were.
How did those problems help influence birdbill’s roadmap in 2022 and into 2023?
The idea for birdbill® was hatched before the pandemic. We think that differentiates us from other pay-at-table solutions that emerged in 2020-21.
We wanted birdbill to be more than a contactless way to pay or view a restaurant’s menu. Our app preserves all the human interaction guests and servers are used to and appreciate while dining out - we just make it easier, more modern, and fun. It’s why we think birdbill is well positioned for where the market is heading - not only for restaurants but for bars, pubs, breweries, and nightclubs.
Using technology and automation is also a great way to save resources. Based on our data, a server spends about an hour dealing with payment-related tasks per shift. Depending on the number of transactions, this can turn into 120 hours (about five days) of human labor per month - not to mention all the paper checks and receipts!
We talked about new places opening in our area. Those locations can always use more visibility. With our Bird’s Eye View map, we provide just that - patrons can discover new places, and restaurants can access a suite of marketing tools. We’re focused on growing our social media presence this year. We want to collaborate with venues and truly connect with the hospitality community rather than only provide them a service.
There is still a “fear of the unknown” associated with new technology, but it’s great to see how many restaurateurs are forward-thinking and seeing benefits in new solutions. It coincides with the rise of mobile POS systems, which I think are the future. They’re so flexible, offer a great user experience, and have a ton of possibilities for third-party integrations. This growth is one of the drivers propelling us to create new partnerships with major players in the ecosystem.
What can restaurants do to alleviate some of the pressure they’re facing? Is there something industry-wide that needs to happen?
Innovation is key. This might mean taking advantage of mobile POS systems or adding support for new, secure ways of payment, like 3DS or phone payments. Other times, it means providing patrons more visibility and empowering them when it makes sense.
I understand how difficult it is to let go of things you’re used to, especially if they worked well for decades. It can be a lot to navigate the restaurant tech landscape and run a profitable business at the same time. But the world is ever-changing, and technology is here to help. We won’t be paying with cash and magnetic stripes forever!
What role do you see birdbill playing in restaurants? What can users and customers expect to see in the near future?
We want to see birdbill become an integral part of the hospitality ecosystem. Although we’re a tech company, we love this community and want to give back to it in our own unique way.
Patrons in the Greater Boston area can expect more pins popping up on their Bird’s Eye View in the birdbill app soon! :)