NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Richard Berroa is taking back control from delivery apps that cut into his profit using his own newly-optimized website, which has opened the door to entirely new revenue streams while restaurants like his have suffered numerous setbacks in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Berroa is an FDNY paramedic who opened Claudy's Kitchen, a Peruvian restaurant in the Bronx, with his wife Claudia in June 2020.
"We knew that we'd be mostly takeout," he said on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.
But, the website Berroa first created on his own did not meet today's demands for online ordering. The Bronx Chamber of Commerce connected Claudy's Kitchen with the Small Business Resource Network - a public-private partnership created during the pandemic to help small businesses with digital marketing and technology resources and training.
"Having the third parties did help us survive and move forward, but you know, we've gotten past that stage and now we want to keep more of the share," said Berroa.
BentoBox specializes in developing websites and digital ordering systems for restaurants while allowing establishments ownership of customer data for marketing, unlike the third-party apps. The company overhauled the website for Claudy's Kitchen with the goal of matching the customer experience online with the quality of service patrons expect in-person.
"We really have their whole digital storefront available to them, so that's become increasingly important through COVID," said BentoBox chief marketing officer Darcy Kurtz. "I think kind of the post-COVID modern restaurant is going to really have to have all this digital property in place because consumer behavior is just permanently changed at this point."
She told WCBS 880 that 77 percent of diners go online before heading to a restaurant.
"There was a very real concern that technology impeded their most important thing, which was delivering hospitality," Kurtz said, continuing, "Hospitality at its roots is about relationships. It's about being in-person. But, what we found is that technology actually can enhance hospitality. It doesn't have to be a barrier to (it)."
"The big thing is that we're getting more in-house orders," said Berroa. "I see the Grubhub and the Uber orders dipping down while our in-house Bento(Box) is going up. So, so far it's working."
BentoBox's technology also allows restaurants to upsell and cross-sell customers at checkout in a way that adds value to the customer experience. As a result, Berroa said, Claudy's Kitchen is getting more combination orders that increase the average per ticket.
"If you've done it lately, you will see things like, 'Hey, you bought the hamburger. Are you sure you don't want fries?' Some of the things that happen naturally in-person when you go to a restaurant, you want your online experience to be able to help do that so that your online ordering is equal or higher total ticket prices than your dine-in. You don't want that to be some trade-off that you're having to make," said Kurtz.
Claudy's Kitchen also has a section for events that BentoBox sees as one of many incremental revenue streams that can hedge against COVID surges.
"You've got to find ways whether it's online ordering, whether it's selling your merchandise, sell your barbecue sauce, sell your T-shirts, you know, do events, and have event management, but just find something else to give you an ongoing revenue stream so that you can level out some of that variability of the dine-in," Kurtz explained.
See the platform BentoBox developed for Claudy's Kitchen along with growth ideas for restaurants on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.