A Candid Perspective from Chowly’s CEO
In my opinion, it’s not about a company making a mistake. It’s about how that mistake is handled and what is learned from it. The story of how Chowly grew so quickly and struggled to keep up with demand is one I think people will recognize and understand. Any company worth its salt will have some growing pains, but for the good ones, that’s not where the story ends. And I thought this would be a good opportunity to share one of those moments. As a leader, improvement is one of my top priorities. Problems happen. Mistakes happen. But when we get them fixed and improve, I get excited. That’s what it feels like now; a massive improvement that helps restaurants and it feels good.
First off, we are very excited to bring 24/7 support to Chowly, something that has long been requested by our restaurant partners but is difficult to implement. Despite some tech companies in the space offering this, I have heard countless stories of restaurants rushing to contact support before 5pm, just to avoid the “after-hours team”. This was an experience I always wanted to avoid, and I’m proud to say we’re now able to offer the same great service from top-performing support reps whenever restaurants need it.
The road to top-tier customer support has been a winding one for Chowly. The first 1-800 number was forwarded to my personal cell phone. I took every call. We weren’t big enough to have a support team and I wanted to be as close as possible to our clients and product. As a result, it was hard for me to spend time with my family and go on dates (a word of advice: if your first date is willing to put up with you leaving three times to help Jet’s Pizza get delivery orders, she’s a keeper!).
Every member of our early team shared the responsibility of providing customer support, alternating shifts to cover calls after work. I think back on this and am so thankful for the spirit of dedication and energy that characterized the early days of the company – a spirit that has proven itself to be perennial. We were a small but mighty team and we relied on one another to get the work done. I’m thankful for those early team members going above and beyond.
Then we brought on our first real support team and implemented our own ticketing system. There were definite growing pains, but when the company is growing at a rate of over 200% a year, it’s expected.
Then March of 2020 came along.
We were still in the thick of figuring things out around scaling support so we were beyond unprepared for the economic shockwaves brought on by the pandemic. 2020 was an interesting time for Chowly (like most), to say the least. On one hand, 3,000 of our restaurant partners went out of business that year. They didn’t just leave Chowly, they shut down their establishments forever. However, on the flipside, Chowly also launched 8,000 new restaurants within that same time frame, netting 5,000 more restaurants on our platform. In theory, this sounds pretty great, right?
Well, it is actually incredibly difficult to run a business with those extreme customer movements. We wanted to help as many restaurants as we could, but we knew that it would actually hurt our business. It was common that we would spend 14+hours of labor on getting a single restaurant location live, only to see it go out of business within three months. We would lose money on every location that happened to. So we faced a difficult decision.
Do we help these restaurants knowing full well we’ll lose money on them?
Do we try to be part of the solution and support the industry we love so much, unit economics be damned?
We chose the latter. In March and April of 2020, we launched over 2,600 locations which was more than a 60% increase in just 60 days. Our support team was not ready. In addition to having more business than we could adequately support, we were simultaneously navigating the unfamiliar complications of having a fully remote team. Chowly relied heavily on office culture, where impromptu collaboration sessions and good humor kept us feeling connected and focused. Now that the team was suffering in the absence of that, it made it even more difficult to manage.
Looking back, I would have changed a few things. I learned a lot. But put simply, we were not ready for the growth we experienced and our support was severely lacking. It’s not hard to dig up a slew of rough reviews on Chowly in 2020. Given the sheer volume of support demand, there was no quick fix here.
However, in 2021, we took a bold and drastic approach to fix our support structure. We went all out. We changed our product, our leadership, our partnership policies, our tooling, and made large investments across the board to get things back on track. That same year, our customer satisfaction increased by 50% and continues to improve every single month. We’ve distilled our vision and honed our processes and it shows.
Today, we offer support by phone, web, chat, and text. Web, chat, and text are now offered 24/7 with the same high customer satisfaction standard we have across all our channels and time zones. We’re encouraging new and old customers to give us a try. Feel free to send a text to our support team at 2 AM. Let me know how it goes. I’m not hard to find. I believe you’ll be as happy with the speed and quality as I am.
Chowly is a leading point-of-sale (POS) integration company that enables restaurants to expand and maintain a diverse set of off-premise capabilities. Chowly seamlessly integrates online ordering solutions from all points of origin—such as Third-Party Marketplaces; which include Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash, Third-Party Menu Management using POS sync technology, and Direct Order with Google; an integration of orders placed on Google search, Google assistant, or Google pay—directly into a restaurant’s POS system. Additionally, Chowly provides all the tools necessary to launch a successful Virtual Restaurant using existing kitchen space. Chowly continues to develop efficient solutions for the ever-changing challenges that restaurants face, solidifying the company’s mission to simplify technology for their 12,000+ restaurant partners. Contact us at Chowly today to learn more about implementing an online food ordering system for your restaurant.