Not so long ago, the idea of ordering your food before you got the restaurant then sitting down in the establishment’s dining room to eat it felt unnecessary. Why go to a restaurant dining room at all if you’re in that big of a hurry? Why not hit the quick-service chain down the road if you’re that badly in need of quick service?
Flash-forward to now, and being able to order ahead is becoming a must-have for restaurants, in or out of the dining room.
This is what Allset, a company based out of San Francisco, wants to address. In addition to currently offering a bundle of contactless features restaurants can use during this current restaurant industry upheaval, the company also allows customers to order food ahead of time for any type order, whether they’re eating in the dining room or taking it to go.
More than ever, restaurants are finding they need to offer high-tech order-ahead features for both in-house and off-premises meals, and that both speed and minimized human-to-human interactions are important parts of that process. Some companies — third-party delivery services and a slew of restaurant-tech products — offer these things for pickup and delivery orders, but they typically come at a high cost and don’t include any solution for the actual dining room.
Allset doesn’t have any significant competitors when it comes to offering a package that addresses every restaurant experience, which is probably a big reason demand for the service is up. Over the phone this week, CEO Stas Matviyenko said the company has been busier than ever as restaurants scramble for solutions to help them navigate the new normal. “[The pandemic has] changed the way people dine, the way people want to dine. The way restaurants have to serve people [has] changed dramatically.”
Allset, which was founded in 2015 by Matviyenko and Anna Polishchuk, started as a service for dine-in restaurant experiences. Users could choose a restaurant via the Allset app, order and pay for their meal ahead of time, and have their meals ready within about five minutes of their being seated at the restaurant. The company added a takeout component to the business in 2019, a fortuitous move considering the entire industry went off-premises a few months ago.
As Matviyenko explained to me, Allset was actually working with a contactless pickup solution before the pandemic hit. Seeing inefficiencies in the usual pickup order process — flagging a staff person down to notify them of your arrival, waiting around for the order — the company started offering a way for restaurants to streamline that process. The “ideal” experience, he said, would be for a customer to order and pay for their meal, find their food in a designated pickup area, and be able to grab it and go without ever interacting with staff. Allset actually raised $8.25 million to further develop this concept at the end of March, just as dining rooms were shutting down.
But just because the industry is leaning heavily on off-premises nowadays doesn’t mean Allset is forgetting about the dining room. Matviyenko suggests that a technology like theirs is actually more important nowadays. Restaurants — which have always operated off thin margins — now have to contend with lower sales because of reduced capacity requirements in their newly reopened dining rooms. They will want to turn tables faster in order to get more transactions on a day-in, day-out basis, and one way to do that is to cut down the time a customer has to wait between sitting down and actually getting their food. As well, there are people who would just prefer to grab a quick bite for lunch without eating it from a takeout box, and this is an area Allset has always served.
It doesn’t hurt that the restaurant menu format is also changing, thanks to reopening guidelines that suggest businesses use digital menus. Baking pre-order into that digital format seems just mere steps away, rather than the giant leap it would have been pre-pandemic.
Currently, Allset is waiving all commission fees for restaurants, and the app is free for customers to use. Matviyenko said since the COVID-19 crisis began, they’ve been getting much more interest from restaurants large and small. Moving forward, he says he expects to see the company grow much faster than before.