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Episode 30: Inside Restaurant Technology

Jordan Ferger from Toast joins us to discuss ways that tech innovations are creating better and more enjoyable dining experiences. Toast is an all-in-one, cloud-based software platform built for restaurants of all sizes.



Transcript

Posted October 3, 2021


Brady Viccellio

If you've ever wondered about what goes on behind the scenes at restaurants, then you're in the right place. This podcast takes you inside the minds of restaurant owners, chefs, bartenders, servers, basically anyone who has anything to do with food drink or hospitality, and Brady Viccellio, owner of Steinhilber’s restaurant and La Bella Italia on Laskin Road in Virginia Beach. Welcome to The Check podcast.


Alvin Williams

And I'm Alvin Williams, cohost of the check and owner of Cobalt Grille restaurant at hilltop in Virginia Beach. Welcome to our podcast, we'll be talking about restaurants, people who work in restaurants who own restaurants and people who like to dine in restaurants.


Brady Viccellio

Today, we're joined by Jordan Ferger from Toast Restaurant Management Platform. We'll be talking today about technology and restaurants. And Jordan is an expert on that. Welcome, Jordan.


Jordan Ferger

Thank you. Thanks for having me.


Alvin Williams

And Toast is not a breakfast restaurant in Virginia Beach, right?


Jordan Ferger

No, it's not. I think there's one in Norfolk. But that's not what we're doing here.


Alvin Williams

Explain to us what Toast is and who you are and what you do there.


Jordan Ferger

Yeah, sure. So Toast is an all in one restaurant technology platform. And, , I've been working in the restaurant industry basically, my entire life since I was nine. And , all different aspects of the restaurants, everything from filling, cannolis, making boxes, GM, catering, sales manager to hotel, and then Toast found me via LinkedIn. And I was really interested because I've, , had bartended for years prior. And it seemed like a really awesome system. So what we do is, we really just try to make restaurant tours lives easier. , we cover the front, the back of the digital platform, everything as a whole, , when it comes from payroll to scheduling and the POS system itself. So I am the rep in Virginia Beach.


Brady Viccellio

Tell us how Toast is different than -- so before Toast I had Aloha. Alvin had a restaurant manager. Tell us how Toast is different than those platforms.


Jordan Ferger

Yeah, so Toast is completely cloud based. So basically, you can see your information from anywhere. And I know you had Aloha before and you had Pulse didn't you? Okay, well, Pulse was basically like this add on, that would be like $125 a month to make your system cloud based. But not only that, like I said before, it's it's the full platform, its integration with other partners, it's online ordering loyalty programs that are very easy to use, which Brady, I know that you really liked that about Toast because you said that what you were using prior was was pretty clunky. And I'll have to say walking in here. I was like, how am I ever going to because Aloha was always the one where I mean, it's still is a tough system. But at this point, , I'm good. I've been doing this for three years. But I was like, how am I going to get this guy off of Aloha? Where do I even begin? And you mentioned something about the loyalty program was like, oh, sick like this is it like this is such a great asset, like this is a great part of our business. So I would say you know, differences between , a restaurant manager or an Aloha is that you don't have to go to a lot of different places to get what you need, , you don't have to utilize other vendors and other platforms, you can do all of it within Toast.


Alvin Williams

It's like a one-stop shop.


Brady Viccellio

That's it. Yeah, I had Aloha for over 15 years, and maybe close to 20 years. So it was great. It was when I got it, it was, by my estimation the best and it remained the best for many years. And still in some applications. It's probably I don't know, the best but it's very good.


Jordan Ferger

And you're a techie guy.


Brady Viccellio

So yeah, that's I did have through the loyalty program on Aloha, I did have something called Aloha enterprise, which was that on your Pulse is one thing and Aloha enterprises and other so you do reporting and loyalty and gift cards through that. And it was so complex. And Toast has really simplified it, it was very straightforward. And Aloha probably has more features in that arena, but to access his features, it's like 10 more steps. I's just very, very complex.


Jordan Ferger

I think that that's the interesting part also about Toast is that, , we've got, I mean, I think alone this year, we were hiring 125 software engineers, and this generation of, , younger restaurateurs and people that understand technology. It's more about, can I touch five buttons instead of 10 , because we really understand what that means and how fast our businesses are moving and what can get us there the best way?


Brady Viccellio

To Toast’s credit, I would say that it's not five to 10. It's two.


Alvin Williams

So clearly you're a tech company that understands restaurants. And that's been a great help for me. We just run with the program. I'm not sure how long now, maybe a month, a couple months. And it's been working out. And all my staff, they understand it way more than I do. They’re just a little more tech savvy. But it works. And we've seen higher turntable rates, because we get food out quicker, we get, , drinks out quicker. And then we get the tables back. So it's been working.


Brady Viccellio

If there's another restaurateur that is not on Toast, which hopefully there's one that listens to our podcast, what is it that you would want them to know?


Jordan Ferger

I think I would say to, , the majority of my customers in the Virginia Beach, Outer Banks area, they're all coming off of legacy systems. With a legacy system. , your concerns are, how much data are you holding in that back office computer, as savvy as hackers are today? I mean, I guess I would even say like, it's, it would be pretty simple for them to break in and pull the data that's sitting there, , you're all the credit card information. It's been there for a couple years, things like that. At the same time, you know, the ability to understand your business from your house, instead of spending 24/7 in your restaurant, I think that's a big deal, too.


Brady Viccellio

Right? And so I think what you're talking about is PCI compliance is one thing. And you know, the PCI compliance is basically security of data, customer data, and restaurants. We're not Google, we're not really geared for Internet Security.


Jordan Ferger

Our founders, Steve Fredette and Aman Narang, that was a big part of why they started Toast. They went to, they went to MIT, and graduated from there. And they had gone to Europe for a trip and saw that everyone was using handheld terminals. Basically, pay at the table -- credit card never needs to leave the site of the actual guest. And what they were wondering, why is there such a huge gap in technology in restaurants? Like, what is it about the hospitality industry that has drawn this big gap. They started it out with the, with the Toast Go, it started out with an app and utilize the Toast Go. And in 2018, the Toast Go 2? Well, the Toast Go one was the best restaurant technology of the year, which was, you know, that handheld terminal, basically.


Brady Viccellio

And it's a lot of those, I don't know how, like, for example, well, I'll just say, a lot of your competitors that are kind of the package cloud based systems, I don't know how they're rigged up. But Toast is great, because it's Android based. And Android is, of course a tried and true platform. And it's so simple. To have that Toast terminal. And to troubleshoot it, you get on the phone with the tech people. And it's just straightforward Android stuff, and they can fix it for you over the phone.


Jordan Ferger

Totally. And I think that specifically with Android, and what the benefits are, over an iOS platform is that, you know, we can make adjustments to a bug, right? We can do that ourselves. It's not like we don't have to go through the iOS platform itself to, to make those changes and adjustments. You know, if we find out that there's something that you know, we need to adjust, or we need to fix, we can do that right, by ourselves. And the cool thing is really, I mean, I would say the majority of our company uses Macs for their laptops, and for our cell phones. But we know that Android is definitely the way to go when, you know, running our our platform of Toast and the ease of use for our customers.


Alvin Williams

Jordan, what are the ways that restaurant technology creates a better dining experience?


Jordan Ferger

I think lots of ways. It definitely depends on the type of restaurant. If we're talking about for you guys in particular, full service restaurants, definitely being able to flip tables faster integrations with Open Table specifically, right, we've got that direct integration with the reservation system. So Open Table and Toast will be able to see you know how long a customer has been on their appetizer or, Toast can get the information of that it's an anniversary dinner, things like that.


Alvin Williams

I particularly like the Toast for the online ordering. It works well for us. The system works well for us as restaurant people. But I think it's particularly good for the customers because they don't pay as much -- they pay what they would pay inside the restaurant, right? They're not paying those fees that they would from Grubhub, Postmates Doordash or Uber Eats or all those because that's an extra 20 to 30%.


Brady Viccellio

You don't want to get out of your car and if you're in a pandemic type of situation like we were. It's kind of nice to get out of the house and take a little drive it gives you an excuse to pick up food you pull up somebody shoves the food in your car.


Alvin Williams

Or if you're busy and if you got a couple kids in the car and you don't want to get them out the car because you got to get him back in the car. So you call the food and then somebody brings it out to you yeah, I think it's a great system


Jordan Ferger

I think an amazing aspect of Toast, like specifically when talking about online ordering or kiosks any part of the digital platform is that you all as the restaurateurs are gathering the data of your customers. Me as the guest I want to come to your restaurants right? That means I also want to hear from you I want you to have communication with me so every time a customer places an online order or orders a gift card enters the loyalty program you are getting that information and you're able to then attract more guests and retain those guests by reaching out to them through something like our email marketing campaigns.


Jordan Ferger

Brady is pretty close. Brady sometimes knows more than I do about Toast so I get a little concerned.


Brady Viccellio

Only in like very specific ways.


Jordan Ferger

Yeah, like savant type ways. Yes. Obviously with the online ordering and Alvin touched a bit on it and not having to pay those commission fees is a huge deal Yeah, it's a big hit if you're paying 30% commission on an order -- that's all the revenue that essentially you should be making.


Alvin Williams

I can make or break a restaurant.


Brady Viccellio

Yeah, and during the pandemic,we would have busy times with Grubhub and I would just watch -- we'd go in the hole because those third parties just take your profit.


Alvin Williams

Yeah, I mean it was nice It was nice to see our loyal customers trying to support and help us through tight times but we were getting hosed on the fees and actually still are.


Jordan Ferger

So prime example, the email that we sent out today -- it was one of the templates and it was we do delivery now right so we have a partnership with the Doordash network of driver. We use those drivers to where you aren't paying the commission structure but at the bottom of that email it said please utilize our own online ordering sites so that we don't have to pay those commission fees because what that does also is and not specifically for you all but for any other place right if I'm going to go on a website a restaurants website and order online and then if I look at that same menu on Uber Eats Doordash Grubhub whatever -- it's going to be more on those other third party apps.


Alvin Williams

Because you have to cover it trying to get your money.


Jordan Ferger

Exactly. But when you're going through Toast, you have our online ordering platform, which is simple and easy and doing all of the things that those other companies do which I think are great for marketing right. Ee actually have direct integrations with with Uber Eats, Doordash and Grubhub. So if you want to continue to gain those followers and utilize that marketing, from that aspect you can and all of those orders will just funnel directly into the terminals.


Alvin Williams

But yeah, I can order through Toast because you have a Toast app. But if you don't want another app on your phone, you can go to your favorite restaurant Steinhilber’s or Cobalt Grille and you can go directly to our website exactly so you can go to cobaltgrille.com, hit the online order and the Toast menu will appear and will come straight to my little screen in my kitchen and I'll cook it and I'll have it ready for you 20 minutes later.


Jordan Ferger

With the same price that you'd be paying in the restaurant.


Alvin Williams

Same price -- that's important. Yeah, because I'm not raising that price.


Jordan Ferger

Becauseyou don't have to. Because what it costs for Toasts online ordering, is you both of you could easily make that in a minute.


Alvin Williams

Well, because what I can tell you is we've had to raise those takeout prices because of those fees that they charge. But now prices are going up because of what we have to pay for products right Brady? I mean beef has skyrocketed, crab meat, you can't get a pound of crab meat for less than $40.


Alvin Williams

Yeah. Have you seen the beef prices?


Brady Viccellio

Have I seen it?


Alvin Williams

So we're now actually having to structure our menus and change our menus because of these prices.


Brady Viccellio

I mean, if you can find a chicken wing, it's hard to find chicken wings,


Alvin Williams

Chicken has gone through the roof. So it's really tough. For us to add extra money to those takeout orders is not really fair. So we're able to save as direct from the restaurant.


Jordan Ferger

So even if you're utilizing those third parties, right? You What you can do is slip a promo code with the QR code to your online ordering site, which is I think what you do for La Bella, and for Steinhilber’s, and basically just say this is what you would be paying going through these other third parties. And this is what you pay through Toast takeout through the online ordering site through Toast. And it's helping. Listen, I think that what the pandemic has shown us is that our customers want to support our local restaurants, more than ever. We loved going there before and we definitely love going there when we might not be able to go inside. So being able to utilize the online ordering without paying the extra and having that passed on to the customer, I think it's a really big deal.


Brady Viccellio

I want to change subjects real quick. One of the things that the pandemic has brought on is labor shortages. And we touched on this a little bit. Toast has a number of features, as do many POS systems. But just since you're here we'll focus on Toast. … So the Toast Go, one of my favorite things about that, my favorite thing to watch is when a waiter who's really gung ho on the Toast Go goes to the table, and we do a team waiting. So there's a front waiter and a captain. So the captain comes to the table, takes a drink order, starts talking about specials. And by the time they're done at the table, greeting the table for the first time, his assistant or her assistant brings the drinks that they've ordered. And people are flabbergasted. Yeah, it's like they just arrived at the Jetsons. It's great. So labor, we're reducing labor. And even Toast I know has been challenged with labor. Everybody's challenged with labor.


Jordan Ferger

Yeah, it's tough. Last year, we went through a lot it. I've been working for Toast since 2018. So well, we always say, working for Toast in a year is a dog's year. So it's like, seven years equals one normal human year for everyone that works at Toast because everything changes so quickly. So you're flipping tables faster? But I think that as far as labor goes, Yeah, yeah, I think that it's definitely taken a huge impact on the restaurant industry as a whole. And we're finding ways to go around it, whether that be order and pay at the table, which is with the QR code where you literally, it's not that you don't need servers, because we, we support the industry, and we want you to be able to utilize whoever you can, but it's, it's more or less your server turns into a captain of a section. Generally I would have maybe four tables and a full service restaurant, but when you're utilizing order and pay at the table, you can do eight.


Alvin Williams

That's very important. We want to stress that we're not trying to replace service.


Brady Viccellio

You're making actually more money. Yeah, the order and pay is wildly misunderstood. We've probably all experienced a version of it. Full disclosure, I've been unsuccessful in creating the version that I want to create from it. But it's an amazing system. And for the right situation. I'd say if we were back in the pandemic situation, well, we're in the pandemic, but if we were back into the huge social distancing, and very limited staff. It's an amazing system and just tell us a little bit about that -- how that works.


Jordan Ferger

Sure, yeah, features it has, but yes, the features are amazing. So it's not just you sit down at a table and you to scan a QR code, right? Because to be honest, I hate that a little bit like, you know what I mean? If I'm going to a restaurant, I want that communication. I want the full experience, right? So you sit down, you scan the QR code, it's going to automatically say, are you at table 17? And I'm like, yeah, table 17. And then let's say one of you all comes and sits down, and you scan the QR code, and then it will say, Are you at table 17? with Jordan? And you say, yes. So we could start this tab together and you know, at our food in our server can come over, then your server can, will be able to go to the terminal and say, oh, they're table 14? Yep. Okay, well, they wanted to order another round of apps.


Brady Viccellio

The server can still come over and talk about special specials, still add things to your tab.


Jordan Ferger

You’re getting great communication. And I think the order and pay at the table and what people think about using the Toast Go or the handheld, like, Oh, my servers aren't going to talk to my customers -- like actually quite the opposite. Because you get more direct communication. You're not running back and forth to the terminals, you're not going to put more orders and you're having that conversation of it's your birthday, congratulations.


Alvin Williams

The system might be more successful with a different demographic of person that we serve.


Because we have an older crowd, but you know what it is, in my view, the way that I envisioned it working great, is once that tab is established, it becomes supplemental to the dining experience, it doesn't replace the dining experience, it becomes supplemental. For example, you might, you might be into your cups that evening, and you might get through a round of drinks very quickly, right? You can reorder that round of drinks and not even need to flag down a waiter and say, Hey, and there we go, the drinks are on the bar there for table.


Jordan Ferger

We see an increase of up to 12% on those order and pay at the table tickets. Because they don't wait for things. I can sit and I can say all right, well my Margarita is empty and I would really like another one but I there's only three servers in this whole restaurant because nobody really wants to work. They're all home doing whatever they're doing. So now the server is still going to get a tip because I'm enjoying my time here because I can just tap my phone and order another round for all of us.


Brady Viccellio

And we've seen that the average tipping is above 20%.


Jordan Ferger

Right? Oh, absolutely. Same with the handheld. Yep, you're increasing your tickets 12% and you're having increased tips also for both?


Brady Viccellio

Jordan I know when order and pay first started, it was it was such a push because because Toast was trying to come up with a solution. Toast launched seven products very quickly. And it was so hard, because I was just scrambling to try to get in line. And the line was long. It was like the line at the toilet paper aisle. And, and then once you got in line, it still had its rough edges. And one of those rough edges was that every time you made an order opened a new tab there was a disconnect. A lot of people have experiences where they get the credit card bill and there’s 25 entries from Steihilber’s, when they got a soda, appetizers, entrees, dessert, cocktails after dinner, drinks, coffee, they're all different line items on each individual person's tab.


Jordan Ferger

Right. So we listen to our customers. And I think that that's a huge benefit of Toast is that we really adjust based on what you all see in the restaurant and what you have to say and how your guests are responding and reacting. So yeah, so it will start, I sit down at the table, I will start a tab for order and pay at the table, right scan that QR code, put my order in, then the server is then able to go add to that table, add to that order and then it will pre authorize the card. So there's only one check. It's not going to be closed out every time. It's actually going to keep the tab open that entire time of your dining experience. So that way there's not multiple tabs.


Alvin Williams

Just like you would if you go to a bar and they say hey, can we hold on to a credit card?


Brady Viccellio

So we have order and pay, we all three dine together, we all three get one entry on a credit card. We have multiple courses, multiple cocktails, split tabs, all that just like a regular dining experience except not only can we order but our server can order as well.


Alvin Williams

Your server can ring it in for you.


Jordan Ferger

As long as you start the tab currently, as long as you start the tab with that me as the guest, as long as I start that tab with the order and pay feature. Yep. It's we're always working on things. Yeah. So long as I started, the server can add to it today.


Brady Viccellio

And I think that probably if it wasn't for pandemic, I mean, I don't know exactly, but Toast puts out really clean products. And probably that wouldn't have been pushed out as early as it.


Jordan Ferger

Exactly. I mean, I think that that was a huge part of when the pandemic hit, and I know how hard it was for me, and I don't own a restaurant, but listening to my customers and trying to figure out ways to help them through this time that we all had to figure out together. Toast came out with seven new software products within a very short period. And we were kind of running as fast as we could to kind of keep up with you and keep up with our customers and figure out the best ways for you all to serve your guests and keep your doors open one way or another.


Alvin Williams

So we have your system and it works totally great. But I'm not sure if you know around this part of town, sometimes there's hurricanes and crazy things happen. And we lose our internet and the Wi Fi and lights and everything and we've worked by candlelight before. You’ve done weddings by candlelight, Brady, when the power goes out.


Brady Viccellio

The stuff we've done, you got to do it. Yeah, we've got a generator, but it hasn't always been there. And plus, it's not automatic and takes 15 minutes before it gets going.


Alvin Williams

But if but if that if the power goes out for us, Gary's the first one -- my business partner -- to run into the office, and he's got that old swipe thing. So I'm hoping that we don't have to go through that with you on Toast if we lose internet -- explain to us how that works.


Jordan Ferger

Sure, losing internet connectivity. Definitely happens, but you are able to work completely in offline mode. So what that means is, as far as service, I am able to send orders from my handheld to the kitchen still, right? Well, they'll print in the kitchen. We are actually able to hold credit card information. So let's say we're closing out a tab and it's time to go but the internet is still down, you'll see like a yellow bar at the top. And it'll just say you're working in offline mode, okay, and then it will hold all of that information until the internet's back on. So there was a woman on my team, she still works for Toast. Her name is Margo Davey, shout out to Margo, and she's so good. She's in South Carolina, and she had a customer when one of the hurricanes hit. And I believe that they were out for like five days. They had a generator, their Wi Fi was down, but they had a generator to uphold their electricity, at least. The Toast Go’s have a battery life of 24 hours. Number one, I've charged a Toast Go many times in my car. So I've done that you're able to do that and kind of like transfer that over back into the restaurant, right? What happened was they were offline for five days. And once the Wi Fi came back up, it actually pushed all of the credit cards through. So it processed all of the credit cards. After that amount of time with the Wi Fi was down. Toast is literally holding all of that information. You're in a solid IP address. So like all of the terminals and or handheld are talking to each other at all times. So we can hold the information.


Alvin Williams

It holds information and processes it and then passes it through -- that's pretty phenomenal.


Jordan Ferger

You won't have online ordering if you don't have internet.


Brady Viccellio

It's kind of an automatic version of that knuckle buster you described, right?


Alvin Williams

Gary loves that thing. I went to throw it away the other day. He wouldn't let me throw it away. You're not alone. When was the last time you actually have to use that as a real thing to process credit cards.


Brady Viccellio

It's been years and I mean, there's times that I've wanted it.


Alvin Williams

But yeah, I think it's gotta go.


Brady Viccellio

Alvin you know what time it is?


Alvin Williams

This is the most exciting time that our five listeners have been waiting for--it is the lightning round. Alright, Jordan, what is your favorite movie or TV show?


Jordan Ferger

I would say that my favorite movie would be, there's a lot but What Dreams May Come is a really good one. It's kind of weird and creepy. Donnie Darko, also another good one.


Brady Viccellio

How about your favorite meal?


Jordan Ferger

Oh, meal. I would say a really good softshell crab.


Alvin Williams

What three words do you think describe you the best,


Jordan Ferger

Outgoing, honest and tenacious.


Brady Viccellio

If you weren't doing this will be what would your other dream job be?


Jordan Ferger

I tried to get out of restaurants. And I couldn't. I always have this like, weird obsession with restaurants and like the industry, like the ever changing stuff. I studied broadcasting in college, and I wanted to be a sports broadcaster, but I kind of think like marketing, for hospitality. I love kind of like encompassing everything that I know about restaurants that kind of pulling that together


Brady Viccellio

Hospitality marketing executive.


Jordan Ferger

Yeah, that's what it's like, put that on my business card. That's it.


Brady Viccellio

Nice.


Alvin Williams

All right. What is the best advice that you have ever received?


Jordan Ferger

There is never a right time.


Alvin Williams

Man, you came up with one quick nail down. Jordan, if you could have dinner with anyone in one of our finest establishments, Cobalt Grille or Steinhilber’s. Who would that person be?


Jordan Ferger

Zelda Fitzgerald. So that's F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife. She actually did a lot of his writing. So they had this like insane life and they were at the Cavalier apparently where F. Scott Fitzgerald started pen The Great Gatsby. Yep, the Virginia Beach Hotel. So I was actually named Jordan after Jordan Baker in that book. She's not even a great character Jordan trivia here. It's also hilarious because my mother is a baker. She wasn't at the time. She's a chef ah bakery in Baltimore. But yeahe has a bakery in Baltimore. Zelda Fitzgerald actually wrote a lot of his books and or a lot of his writing basically. And he pretended like it was his -- she didn't get credit for it. She was wild, lived in such a cool age. I also think that if I was kind of born in another life in like the 70s 60s, like late 60s, early 70s. I would be friends with Andy Warhol, for sure.


Alvin Williams

Very cool. Yeah. Wish you had some of his original artwork.


Jordan Ferger

Me too. I've got some of the prints in my kids bedroom. But that's about it.


Alvin Williams

Great lightning round. Jordan, thanks for being here with us on the Check podcast. You've brought a lot of stuff to light for us, and hopefully a lot of other restaurateurs, who are either using your platform or who should be using their platform. I'm sure you got a lot of information today. We appreciate you being on the Check.


Jordan Ferger

Yeah, thank you. And if there are any other restaurateurs who would like to be on Toast if you use either of these two gentlemen as a referral.


Brady Viccellio

That'd be that'd be me, Brady.


Alvin Williams

Or Alvin at the Cobalt Grille.


Jordan Ferger

Oh, yeah. We've got a few in the pipeline right now. But yeah, you get $1,000. Once you're Toast customer as a good referral, and even if you're not a Toast customer $500.


Alvin Williams

But yeah, seriously, we will get behind the product because we use it and believe in it. And it's a great system. So I can I feel very comfortable recommending it to other restaurateurs.


Brady Viccellio

Yeah, so actually, we could probably put in the Check podcast as a referral. podcast.


Brady Viccellio

There you go. Well, I'm Brady.


Alvin Williams

And I'm Alvin. And this is the Check.

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