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Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor

Steve Alexander, Associate Editor

Bud Wayne, Marketing
& Production Manager

Christy Rivers - Editorial Associate

INTERview






Bbot’s API to Change the Landscape of Technology in the Hospitality Industry


Steve Simoni

CEO and Co-Founder


Bbot, Inc.

https://meetbbot.com/


Contact:

Lee Arbel

212-951-0844

press@bbot.menu


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor`

CEOCFO Magazine


Published – March 22, 2021


CEOCFO: Steve, would you tell us the vision behind the company? 

Steve: The vision behind Bbot is to create a single API for hospitality technologies.


CEOCFO: Is there not one now? 

Steve: When we started the company in late 2017, there wasn’t a way yet. We were three entrepreneurs trying to build this product, and it all began with one bar in Brooklyn – The Barge Bar. Once we saw some success with the product, we decided to launch at other hospitality venues like breweries, food halls, and hotels. We began to see a fractured point-of-sale landscape as all of the hospitality operators were using multiple different platforms that weren’t connected. 


Recently, all of our hard work has started to come together, and we’re beginning to work with bright new tech entrepreneurs. We created an external API that allows these hospitality-focused entrepreneurs to build their dream application for restaurants, and it works for all, right out of the gate. 


CEOCFO: How does it work? 

Steve: We have two core products. The first we sell directly to hotels and restaurants - that’s our Bbot In-Venue Ordering product. This is where we put QR codes on every table in the restaurant, or every guest room in a hotel. Guests simply scan a QR code to pull up the branded digital menus. Without having to download an app or sign up, and with just a few clicks, guests can order, their food tickets printing straight to the kitchen and drinks to the bar.


The second product can be sold to any food and beverage operator - Bbot’s Online Ordering product. This includes delivery, curbside pickup, takeout, and catering. The end vision is to take all these different innovations and features we’ve added across all partners and customers, essentially creating an application interface (API). This allows future hospitality tech entrepreneurs an opportunity to build different experiences for both staff and guests.


CEOCFO: Is the public ready for this type of ordering? 

Steve: We started about two years before COVID-19 began. I can honestly say that I don’t think anyone was ready for this when we first started. We had about 80 customers and it was a niche product in New York City. We were going door-to-door, and some bars thought it was cool or interesting. New Yorkers are classically impatient, and they want that next drink as quickly as possible. Our original customers really liked that our system allows that, but it was not widely adopted pre-2020. When COVID happened, our customer base skyrocketed to over 600 customers seemingly overnight. Everyone wanted to have a safe and responsible system in place to help their guests feel as comfortable as possible dining in with them. 


When COVID ends, the question on everyone’s mind is ‘what's going to happen to this type of ordering experience?’. I think that some restaurants on the finer dining side (more of the white tablecloth), will probably end up getting rid of the QR code menus, whereas the casual sports bars, outside bars and patios, hotel rooftop bars, and In-Room Dining at hotels are all likely to keep a system like Bbot because most guests will already be comfortable using it since it’s been working so well. 


CEOCFO: How does an organization or restaurant implement this system? Might a chain look at Bbot?

Steve: Whether it is a mom-and-pop shop, a business that owns one sports bar, or a 50 restaurant chain, Bbot can help. Our implementations team can onboard a customer in one to three weeks, depending on the setup. Bbot integrates with most point-of-sale systems, or at the printer level, and can quickly set up your branded digital menus. This includes logo, colors, font, item description, banner, images, and messages to guests on the menu page and checkout cart. Operators can even choose what information they’d like to gather from their guests upon checkout. For example, if you’re doing curbside pickup, you could require your guests to fill out car make and model.


The nice thing about Bbot is that it’s pretty easy to get rid of. All you have to do is pull the QR codes off the tables. Bbot’s easy to try and see if it works for your place. Typically, chains will only implement a new technology software in five stores before deciding to roll it out to the remaining thousand stores.


CEOCFO: What are the choices that a restaurant would have and how have you made it as easy as possible for the restaurant’s customer? 

Steve: The system wouldn’t be useful if it weren’t as flexible as it is; we try to think of unique additions to the system to make sure guests can customize their orders as if they were ordering from a waiter or waitress. This is a challenging technical problem because there are a lot of choices that people customize when they’re physically dining out.


For example, when you’re ordering delivery or pickup, the menus are simpler and dressing always comes on the side so that salad isn’t soggy when it arrives. When you’re ordering inside the hotel or restaurant, you may want to offer the option for side dressing because it usually doesn’t.


Drinks are the most complicated. For example, when you’re ordering a cocktail, you might need a splash of cranberry, a lemon twist, a topper, ice on the side, or, the best option, upgrade the liquor. There are a lot of different options that you typically don’t have to worry about with online ordering. 


CEOCFO: How are you able to accommodate? 

Steve: We have tried to solve the 90% case to be fast and easy, but still have the advance ordering for any customization behind the scenes. It’s always been a challenge for us, so we lean into close working relationships with our customers and partners to continue making our product even better. This is an ongoing learning process for everyone, especially our engineers, who work day and night to get our customers what they need. Our original product launched with many of the customization options we currently have for our customers; Bbot has only grown and added more features since the Pandemic. 


CEOCFO: What is the business model? 

Steve: The business model is similar to that of big companies like Square or Toast. We do a small monthly fee that’s affordable to restaurants. We have hardware and minimal implementation costs. The biggest part of the business model is in the payments so we monetize credit card processing. When I say that, it’s not like a DoorDash or GrubHub who are charging between 15-25+%; we’re more in the 3% range.  


CEOCFO: What types of companies have taken advantage so far? 

Steve: Within the hospitality market, there are tons of micro-verticals. Although most of our customers consist of restaurants, we also serve food halls, ghost kitchens, breweries, casual bars, upscale rooftop lounges, and hotels for both room service and the surrounding areas like lobbies or conference rooms. Some of our customers prefer to have their guests pick up the food, like most food halls or breweries, since they’re usually more casual and only use runners for bussing. 


CEOCFO: What are you doing in terms of outreach? 

Steve: Outreach is a challenge. In the early days, when I was trying to raise money for our business, most investors would say it was too expensive to reach every hotel and restaurant in the country, let alone the world. We actually found some unique ways to get distribution.


We have our internal sales team calling restaurants directly, and our biggest distribution channel is partnerships. We’re fortunate to work with some of the biggest restaurant tech companies out there, and they bundle our products with their product. 


CEOCFO: Are you seeking funding, investment, partnerships, at this point? 

Steve: We’re definitely seeking more partnerships, but we’re not going to fundraise again until a year from now. We’ve just finished a fundraising round that increased our funding to $7.3M led by Rally Ventures last October that we announced in January. 


CEOCFO: How will you use the funds? 

Steve: We have the team in place that we want. Hiring’s hard and takes time at any stage of the business, and we have completed most of it that we need for this next phase. We also used some of our funding to finish building out our external API that technology partners can use.  


CEOCFO: Do businesses understand that Bbot can produce revenue? Do companies care more that it is contactless or are they looking for the other effects as well? 

Steve: I’m hoping that our customers see that it’s been increasing their revenue, especially over the last year for the venues that didn’t shut down, or for those who chose to take their brands virtual, like our ghost kitchen and virtual food hall customers. There are places in the Midwest and also warmer climates that have been consistently using our platform and some have even changed their operational models around our system.


They can see the benefit of the lift, whereas before they might’ve been skeptical. Now that they’ve seen the results, they’re more excited to leave the system in place when the pandemic ends (hopefully sooner rather than later). In the early days, it was harder to communicate the value because operators were concerned that the server would be able to upsell better than a software device. The data shows that guests order more when they have the control. 


CEOCFO: What surprised you through the whole process, from conception until today? 

Steve: The number of times that we changed course. We originally started as a robotics company, then pivoted to online ordering, and now we’re selling an API for other technology companies to integrate with.


CEOCFO: There are lots of companies to pay attention to; why look at Bbot?

Steve: Bbot is worth paying attention to. Our system will allow other technology companies to seamlessly connect and help serve as many hospitality operators as possible. Bbot is unique in this space because we’re happily allowing others to build on our platform and extend it.


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Bbot is worth paying attention to. Our system will allow other technology companies to seamlessly connect to help serve as many hospitality operators as possible. Bbot is unique in this space because we are happily allowing others to build on our platform and extend it.”
Steve Simoni


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