At this year’s National Restaurant Association Show, Apex CEO Mike Wills sat down with Amanda Venezia, Co-Founder and CFO of NxtGen Network, to talk about why so many restaurant brands are investing in technology and automation to improve the order pickup experience. Here’s a recap of what they discussed, and you can also watch their interview here.
I’m Amanda Venezia with Nation’s Restaurant News and I’m here with Mike Wills, CEO of Apex Order Pickup Solutions. Good morning, Mike. I am so happy to see you and please tell everyone about your wonderful company.
I would love to. Apex works with our clients and prospects, basically foodservice brands, to help them get the right things to the right people, at the right time and place. Now there’s a lot packed into that, but the things are basically food orders. The people are obviously their customers or their designated driver that are there to pick it up. We do that by unlocking a lot of trapped efficiencies in the back of house and we also create a fantastic customer experience on the pickup side.
I love your product… It’s customizable, it’s beautiful. It really elevates your business to have one of these and they’re all over the restaurant industry right now.
They are, and growing fast. Absolutely. We’re very excited about the prospects of this on the post-COVID side, and a lot of operators are seeing the merit of the investment in automation, especially with the challenges that they’re having in terms of getting back to full staffing levels.
Obviously, you want to concentrate that labor in back of house on order production, and invest in automation so that you can disconnect that whole dependency with your team members having to wait around and hand the orders to the right customers as they come in. They’ve been leaning in on this automation and getting a great experience with them.
And it eliminates some of the human error and sitting there waiting for them when the customer comes right up. You don’t have to wait for someone. And I don’t know about you, but I hate lines.
Oh yeah. Everybody hates lines. And to a brand operator, the last thing that they want to do is convey, ‘I’m too busy to take your order with the number of bodies waiting around in the lobby to pick up an order.’ So this investment in automation through an Apex order pickup solution allows them to streamline that whole approach and really give a great customer experience to everybody who interacts with the brand.
Amazing. Talk to me about technology. There’s a ton of different trends, but how specifically is Apex leading the pack?
There has been a significant amount of investment dating back to pre-COVID times, as the consumer made a very significant and pronounced shift of order preference, not just order preference as far as how they’re going to interact with the brand, but also where they’re going to consume that order. A big shift to off-premise, taking that order back to the office, home, wherever. And we saw a lot of operators have leaned into the next generation of technology investment to improve order quality, customer handling, and all the efficiencies in the back of house.
So you saw the emergence of self-ordering kiosks, for instance. You saw the emergence of quick pay and Apple Pay and a lot of different apps on your mobile in which to facilitate the dynamic interaction and accuracy level. But you also started to see some recognition that with this growing tide of off-premises orders, there were two ways to deal with handling that additional order volume.
One was the untended table. That’s where you walk in and you see these bags rolled up with the receipts and names written on it and multiple bags covering a table. There’s no interaction, no brand experience other than going and rooting through a series of orders to find yours.
You also saw the dedicated direct labor team member standing there, making sure the accuracy was there, that Amanda got her order. But based on labor rates right now, is that really what you want to invest in?
So the idea is for the employees you do have, put them to work in the productive areas, producing order volume in back of house and invest in automation that gives your customers a great experience and manages all the traffic with the rapidly rising off-premise volume.
So, in terms of new technology, you have a brand new prototype. Tell us about it.
We do. We’re really excited about it. We’re gaining some early-stage customer feedback and prospect feedback on it. All of our Apex OrderHQ Series is built for a through-the-wall approach, meaning we facilitate the fastest route for orders once they’ve been completed and put it through the back of house and presented for pickup in front of house.
Our latest OrderHQ family member is literally going through the exterior wall. So back to the volume and the traffic management issue, this would allow operators to load orders and pickup drivers to literally pick them up outside the building and never even walk in the lobby. We’re getting a lot of very positive feedback on this, very excited about it.
This is revolutionary, especially for me. I’m a mom. I have two kids. So how can people learn more about this new technology and more about Apex?
See us at ApexOrderPickup.com. Stop by any time, virtually. We’d love to entertain your questions.
Amazing. I thank you so much for joining us today.
Thanks to Nation’s Restaurant News and CREATE: The Future of Foodservice for including Apex Order Pickup Solutions in their National Restaurant Association Show Insider.