Welcome to BOH Banter, an interview series designed to introduce our audience of independent restaurant operators to the entrepreneurs and engineers building the technology they rely on. Have suggestions for who we should interview next? Pitch us: email@example.com!
It's clunky to manage all of the programs and integrations required to run a modern quick service restaurant. That's where Dripos comes in — to alleviate that stress, and to streamline the entire process, from POS to delivery.
Jack Pawlik, the CEO of Dripos, says at some point his company had to stop assuming what the consumer wanted. So they "finally just stopped building things that we thought would work, and we sat down all these owners we're working with," and figured out what needed to be built. As the young company heads into its third year, this approach will continue to evolve as the all-in-one provider nets more clients.
Back Of House spoke with Pawlik about Dripos' vision for helping restaurants with efficiency, how this kind of technology will help the industry during an age of increasingly contact-less ordering, and why he welcomes the burden of needing absolute trust from customers.
This interview has been edited lightly for brevity and clarity.
Back of House: Tell us who you are, and your role at Drip.
Jack Pawlik: My name is Jack. I'm CEO and one of the co-founders of Dripos. I have a background in the restaurant tech world from the last seven years. The first company I was building was actually a food delivery network, very similar to DoorDash or Uber Eats, except we were just based on university campuses. We ended up growing that delivery business to about 25 different cities, and we went the typical venture capital route — raise some money, had lots of people, and we had a huge network of delivery drivers. That's really where I got my intro to a lot of the issues inside the restaurant industry as a whole. And to be honest, we were kind of a part of that issue, being a third-party delivery service. We can go into that a little bit later, but we ultimately got acquired by another delivery company six or seven years ago.
Shortly after that, I co-founded another startup before getting on to Dripos, and that one's actually still alive and well today. It's more of a ticketing service for bars, doing events, things like that. I took a backseat with that to begin working on Dripos about 2.5 years ago. The original concept for what we were doing was actually pretty different from what we're at right now. We were originally just trying to build a very simple mobile ordering app and rewards platform for coffee shops — we would just have all these local coffee shops on one platform with some of the same tools as Starbucks.
BOH: Is that where the name came from, like drip coffee?
JP: That’s definitely where the name comes from. We kept it, though, because everyone seemed to like it. We had people using it, but we still felt like there were some issues going on behind the scenes that weren't really being met. So we finally just stopped building things that we thought would work, and we sat down all these owners we're working with, and put them on a video interview, and asked them questions like, “What other software are you guys using to run your business? If you could build your dream system, what would that look like?”
The most common complaints we were hearing were on top of their POS, they're having to stitch together upwards of 10 different pieces, which is really hard for a lot of restaurant owners to do. It's kind of a nightmare to manage, and none of these tools are built to work well together. It's just expensive and clunky. And then, particularly on the ordering side, if you have a delivery service and then another mobile ordering app, it's expensive to pay commissions on those orders, and then it's also just confusing because you have orders flying in from all over the place — different tablets, different tickets. It’s chaos, and then if you need to make a menu change, you have to go log into like 30 different dashboards. No one wants to do that when you're busy and have a bunch of stacked up tickets in the kitchen.
We got all that feedback, and that's when we decided to just build a system that would replace everything. We kind of frame ourselves as the only software a quick service restaurant would need to operate. We're really specific on the kind of customers we're trying to serve. Right now, we're hyper-targeted on coffee shops, pizza, salad restaurants — anywhere you're ordering at the counter and they bring your food out.
BOH: It's a good time to be oriented around that customer base because that is everywhere [during COVID].
JP: We kind of unintentionally timed that well. The whole goal is we just make it really simple to offer everything you need, except it's all in-house, like your own online ordering website. There’s a mobile app. You can obviously have a register in-store, like a self-service kiosk. And we have our own delivery platform for restaurants to manage and fulfill their own delivery orders, rather than using a network like DoorDash. That's the ordering stuff. We also then do everything from employee scheduling to loyalty marketing. We have it all included inside of Dripos.
BOH: When did Dripos come into being?
JP: This will be our second full year, so we're very new. That's another thing about us, and it's something that we like to prop up a little bit. For all of our initial customers, we really like to make sure they know that we're new, because they get to have a direct say on some of the things that we're building. We want to build more of a community among our first customers to where they feel like they're a part of the products. It's a fun process to have that level of transparency.
BOH: All-in-one platforms can also be clunky. How do you make sure that the offering is actually competitive?
BOH: That's the thing about most all-in-one systems — sure, you can do everything, but it's probably not gonna be the greatest experience. The one-liner that we like to use to tell people about Dripos is that we’re trying to build and design things that are simpler and easier to use than a system like Square. It’s very intuitive — anyone can hop on and start using it. It's really modular, so if you ever need to add more devices, you just throw on a new iPad and it's good to go. On the opposite side, we're trying to be more functional than a more specific system like Toast. That's where things like our entire in-house delivery management tool come into play, where your employees have an app for doing their own delivery rather than just using a paper ticket. So we go pretty into detail on a lot of the restaurant specific features.
BOH: Tell us about the delivery component of Dripos.
JP: The way we view delivery is, if you look at it in a general sense, delivery companies themselves are losing a ton of money every year, and the restaurants, in a lot of scenarios, aren't making money. Even the drivers on DoorDash aren't making money, so it's like: Something's wrong with that model. So we just bring it back to the basics. In Dripos, we still have that marketplace piece where you have your online ordering website. There's the Dripos app, which has all the locations on it, so you can still offer that to your customers. And then we give you the tools to route your own drivers, so instead of paying that 30% commission to DoorDash, you get to keep the entire ticket, except for credit card processing. That's the only fee you pay, but you keep the whole delivery fee, and you get to keep the whole tip. It doesn't actually make economic sense to just have one or two drivers fulfilling your own deliveries. In a lot of cases, some of our restaurants don't even have to hire that many extra people — they can just have existing employees hop in their car and go fulfill the orders. We've seen some interesting use cases during COVID, where a coffee shop will set a small delivery radius, and just put a barista on a bike. It's funny, because that's how delivery worked before all these third-party companies came around, and it was working fine for restaurants back then.
BOH: It sounds like Dripos is doing a bit of counter-programming — first-party delivery is a counter-program to 3PD, for example. Another is integrations — it sounds like you've sort of placed a bet that many of them aren't actually very good. Is that true?
JP: Yeah, and that's our whole thesis. Square or Toast have their whole app marketplaces where it's like, come check out 100 apps that you can use and integrate with. At surface level, it seems like it's nice, but once you're stretched between 10 different platforms that actually don't integrate with each other that well, you're calling the scheduling company about an issue and they're saying it's the payroll provider’s fault, and then they're saying it's the POS company's fault, and then you're just like, what's actually wrong here?
We say, “Look, we'll build all those tools internally. You sign up for Dripos, and you don't have to worry about going out and choosing between 10 different integrations for each of these different functions of the business.” It's all in one place. You don't log into different dashboards. We have an employee app where they see their shifts, they can message each other on there, they can trade shifts. It just works much better by being connected.
BOH: You’ve said quick-serve restaurants are where you think you can deliver the most value. Are there customers that aren't a good fit for Dripos?
JP: Yeah. Right now, sit-down dining customers we’re not really supporting. We don't have some of the workflows that make sense for that. And that's okay. We want to be super targeted for these quick service operations. Inside of quick service, we work with customers that do maybe $1,000 a day to maybe $20,000 a day in volume. We have a whole spectrum from super high volume down to a very small tea shop. Some of our biggest customers have like three registers inside, a drive thru, delivery, and two kitchens, so we can support pretty complex restaurants.
BOH: With Dripos, are you guys saying you want to own this space, but you don't want to be jack of all trades for every type of customer? Or do you have aspirations beyond QSR?
JP: Dripos will always be a tool for quick service operators, but with that being said, what we want to do is build separate products that are specific to other verticals. We'll have an additional product at some point that isn't called Drip, but it’ll be an all-in-one tool for more of a full-service restaurant. We want to branch out and build additional versions, and the nice thing is a lot of the features do have some carryover — like employee management, marketing stuff. Those aren't going to change too much. But what we want to make sure we're doing is when we have a certain customer on a product, we want to be the perfect fit for what they're actually using it for.
BOH: Are there particular features that you feel like customers should really know about that don't come across in the initial pitch?
JP: One of the biggest aspects for most operators is the order system. A nice thing is you just have one menu in Dripos that's attached to the POS, website, app, everywhere the customer orders. We also have a built-in inventory system. Let's say a croissant sells out on the app. That's automatically gonna disable across everywhere customers order so you don't have to worry about any of that. So if you know every morning at 7:00 a.m., you get a shipment of this thing, you can create a rule for that [in the system] and then it's hands off, and will reset every day. It’s little things like that — where you don't have to worry about the tech side of things. We have a browser-based dashboard, so if you're on the go, you can use it on your phone. Everything works everywhere, and it is just nice to have one place to manage those things.
BOH: What’s some feedback you're hearing from your customers right now about how Dripos is fitting into this new way of operating?
JP: We do a pretty good job with the COVID world, given we have all the tools for doing contactless pick up — we have the delivery system, we have the website and the app. The biggest aspect with us is you don't pay any commissions on those orders. It's just credit card processing. So when COVID hit, a lot of operators jumped on to every single mobile ordering app that they could find, just because you had to get in front of customers. In-store dining was just done. I think every operator understands now that they're gonna have to offer those tools. Drip just gives them a good way to do that without having to lose 10 to 30% of the order.
BOH: What's your biggest challenge in getting that message out to operators right now?
JP: There's a lot of noise in the restaurant tech world. I think, at a surface level, if you approach an operator and say, “Hey, we're a POS company, and we're gonna do a full rip out and replace everything you do,” the first thought is like, “Oh, man, this is gonna be a lot to get going. It's gonna be a painful experience.” To make that easy, we actually do a full setup — from nothing to fully onboarded in 15 minutes. We can import all their data out of their previous system — things like gift cards, customer data, whatever. We just make it super smooth, and there's no setup fee, there's no required in-person install. We support both iOS and Android devices.
BOH: What are you most worried about as you look to continue to grow this product and to serve your operators?
JP: It’s a lot of responsibility, what we're trying to build. We are trying to run your entire business, every single aspect, down to even accounting — like we're building a full QuickBooks replacement, so it's a restaurant specific accounting tool. We even want to start adding some banking features. So it's like you could literally never leave Dripos, and that's really exciting. It's just a really big vision, and the thing with us is as a company, we can never go down. If we go down, all of our companies go completely down. We've done a lot of work to set up really careful infrastructure. We have a big breakdown of our production server, our beta testing server, our internal testing server, where we schedule new updates between the three on a tiered weekly basis. By the time something gets to the production server, it's been really tested and really reliable. We just don't want big issues popping up during the day when people are trying to run their business.
BOH: It sounds like you've earned that trust from your customers, but like you said, that's a big burden of responsibility. Why do you want that burden? Why is that of interest to you personally?
JP: Number one, I'm a big product person. I just love making things and building different tools, and this is the ultimate version of that. We are really propping up so many different parts for these businesses, and we have two different versions of the website, all these different dashboards, different parts of the product. It's really fun for us internally to work on all these things. The reason we built it is because it just didn't exist yet, so it's fun to give people what they're asking for. We try and just remove ourselves from the situation where we're not the ones dictating what's getting built, and we just every week ask everyone like “Hey guys, what do you want this week?” And then we get to come to them the next week and be like “Here you go!” and then everyone's super excited about it, which is fun.