Featured Startup Pitch: ChowNow is an online ordering, management and marketing platform with a mobile and Facebook focus

ChowNow logoWebsite: www.chownow.com

Founders: Christopher Webb and Eric Jaffe

Headquarters: Venice, California

Year Founded: 2010

Investors: GRP Partners, Launchpad LA, James Bailey

Twitter: @chownow

Blog: chownow.tumblr.com

Brief Company Description: ChowNow is an online ordering platform for the foodservice industry that uses branded mobile and social media tools to expand restaurant’s capabilities and customer reach.

By Chris Webb, co-founder and CEO

Product Overview

ChowNow is an online ordering platform for the restaurant industry that uses branded mobile and social media tools to expand a restaurant’s capabilities and customer reach. The streamlined ordering process that ChowNow provides increases operational efficiencies, order accuracy and frequency. Restaurant managers can self-administer the entire platform, allowing for instantaneous changes like menu additions, delivery areas updates or pricing modifications.

ChowNow provides restaurants with three channels for funneling online orders: custom mobile apps, Facebook ordering and website integration. All ChowNow apps are free and available in the App Store and custom developed to match our restaurant client’s branding. On Facebook we’re the first to monetize restaurants’ pages by integrating online ordering. And, we’ll integrate our platform straight onto current websites so that it will look it was always there.

Constantly evolving to meet our clients’ needs, ChowNow has also recently launched new features that clients have already integrated. First, ChowNow’s group ordering tools are now mobile-enabled. Large groups of coworkers or friends can each pick their own meal and pay individually on one order—anywhere, anytime. Catering functionalities are also soon to be released, developed as a response to client demand. Large orders selected from a catering-only menu can be placed weeks in advance.

Founders’ Story

Once a trader at RBC and Lehman Brothers, I was a regular user of Seamless and others like it to order my late-night working dinners. If I wanted to order online, there weren’t other options! So, as any budding entrepreneur would, I dug deeper to find the source of the monopoly-like hold a few websites have over Manhattan’s to-go based restaurants.

I spoke with restaurant owners who all said the same things: they were sick of forking over the huge cut that portal sites require, but they couldn’t find an effective alternative. They were tired of long wait times when they needed their menu updated. And they also begged for a better way to receive orders than faxes or phone calls. At this point, I had all the ammunition I needed, so I returned to my home in Venice, California, and started ChowNow with my friend, Eric Jaffe.

ChowNow was developed to meet restaurant owners’ needs. The service is provided at a flat rate. ChowNow is completely self-serve so changes and updates can be made in real-time. Orders come through the ChowNow tablet, which is paperless, wireless and touch screen.

Marketing/Promotion Strategy

Market opportunity

There aren’t too many industries that have seen the exponential growth that online shopping and purchasing has seen. In the restaurant industry, one in four restaurant operators with take-out and/or to go offerings already have online ordering. Its popularity doesn’t come as a shock to anyone though since online ordering not only makes restaurant owners’ lives easier, it also boosts the bottom line. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Cornell University shows that take out order frequency increased by 43 percent and online ordering and delivery increased by 30 percent. We’re excited about the future at ChowNow!

Marketing

While ChowNow’s best marketing will always be client’s word-of-mouth endorsements, tools like press coverage, advertising, SEO and strategic partnerships are also in our arsenal. I also recently launched a blog on The Huffington Post, focused on the intersection of food and technology.

How We Differentiate from the Competition

ChowNow was built around one singular idea: create an online ordering system that works in the social and mobile era. To that end, our points of difference are in our DNA; to highlight a few:

-A complete bundle: ChowNow provides online ordering through the three most powerful and popular channels—mobile apps, Facebook ordering and website ordering—for a flat monthly fee.

-Ease of use: ChowNow’s Tablet and Dashboard were designed for daily updates and changes, so the user interface is simple, specific and intuitive.

-No faxes, phone calls or emails: The ChowNow Tablet acts as the home base of online orders in any restaurant so orders are never lost or forgotten.

Business Model

There is another point of differentiation here too. Many competitors charge upwards of 10 percent per transaction, which according to many ChowNow clients isn’t a sustainable set up—it’s just too much. ChowNow, on the other hand, charges a nominal monthly fee and a very small transaction fee (about  three percent).

Current Needs

We’re always looking to hire passionate, smart and awesome people. If you think you fit the bill, email info@chownow.com and tell us why.

ChowNow – www.chownow.com

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