By now, building a tech stack has been a given for restaurants of all sizes, but as we’ve said before, investing in technology isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. While national restaurant brands such as Domino’s and Chipotle have become leaders in cutting-edge foodservice technology, how can smaller brands compete with fewer resources? According to Peter Baghdassarian, co-owner of seven Armenian kebab chain Massis Kabob, you have to do your homework, understand your company’s needs, and don’t be afraid to invest in advance.
Massis Kabob, which has served Mediterranean cuisine in the Mall of California food court since 1976, was one of the first restaurants to invest in digital video menu boards about 17 years ago, Baghdassarian said.
“It was a big deal at the time, and we had to work with a company in Taiwan to make them because it was hard to get them here,” he said. “Menu boards add to our business because our food is difficult to explain through regular menu presentations.”
When Baghdassarian’s father first opened Massis Kabob, Baghdassarian said, most of the customers were unfamiliar with Mediterranean cuisine and had never had kebabs, so eventually the digital menu board helped explain the kebabs, pita rolls and combo plates menu. This is exactly how Baghdad Sarian handles every aspect of food service technology: Will it make life easier for my employees? Are you solving a problem? If it doesn’t, it ends up in the trash, he said.
Currently Massis Kabob has a very simple tech stack: they use Toast for POS and 3rd party delivery integrations, use Incentvio to build and operate their loyalty app, and are currently looking for a new dispatch software partner.
“When we wanted to replace our POS system, we didn’t have the full-time IT staff to help us like a big chain,” Baghdassarian said. “If the technology in the office requires a mouse and a computer, my manager won’t use it. We don’t have that setup. It has to be on a phone or tablet, and it has to be very intuitive.”
While it sounds like Baghdad Sarian is skeptical of a lot of technology, he only knows what he wants and what works for a counter service kebab shop. Massis Kabob just opened a new flagship store in Culver City last month. The 3,500-square-foot store is the largest of the chain’s seven locations, accommodating in-store customers and pickup and delivery aisles. Unlike many of Massis Kabob’s larger restaurant industry colleagues, however, this off-site-focused location doesn’t have drive-thru lanes because “that’s just not practical in Los Angeles.”
As the restaurant industry in general has become more off-premise, with people increasingly discovering and interacting with restaurants through apps, Baghdassarian says it’s an adjustment to their brand. “We’re not flipping the burger,” he said, adding that making a kebab from scratch requires more effort and accurate timing, and it’s not a continuous process like other types of quick service.
“We tell people their food will be ready in 12 minutes, because otherwise it will sit and get cold,” Baghdad Sarian said. “We call our customers in person when their food is ready for pickup, and while that’s another step, it gives us more quality control than our competitors.”
Of course, the process is now much easier with the launch of Massis Kabob’s new app, which is available for download this year and allows them to build one-on-one relationships with customers through critical customer data.
“We are happy to work [with Incentivio] Because I avoid hiring four people to sit in an office doing data analysis,” Baghdad Sarian said. “McDonald’s might have a bunch of data scientists doing custom loyalty work for them, but I wouldn’t have the time or half a million dollars to spend. on this. “
As for Baghdad Sarian’s last bit of advice on investing in tech as a smaller restaurant brand? Don’t go for the big names in tech just because you know the names, make sure the tech is user-friendly, and take advantage of your tighter size to add more personal flair:
“At one point we had a technical glitch with a third-party courier and the customer’s food wasn’t picked up by the driver,” he said. “We looked him up in the database and noticed he was a regular customer and spent money with us. Thousands of dollars. So, I picked up that bag of food and drove 20 minutes to deliver it myself.”
Contact Joanna [email protected]
Find her on Twitter: @joannavantozzi