Houston Restaurant Owners: Get an Online Ordering Store for No Up-Front Cost From a Local Small Business!
Even during the best of times, restaurant owners search for ways to increase historically thin profit margins in this challenging line of business. On the other hand, customers are seeking the safety and convenience of online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery. Especially now, at a time restaurant dining rooms are having to operate with increased safety standards at reduced guest occupancy, commissions charged on sales by national third-party delivery services — which can be up to 30% — are unsustainable. Local Houston company blu27 is on the side of restaurant owners and has a proven online ordering system that can be implemented in as little as a week for only a third of what delivery services charge.
Owner Caesar Vielmas, a Sugar Land resident who established blu27 in the Heights a decade ago, has 22 years of experience in the digital marketing and technology industry. Like many in the Houston area, he grew up a fan of the restaurant scene. The online ordering service idea started when Vielmas noticed how much restaurants are struggling right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “There’s a restaurant I’ve been going to since I was in high school. Now, it’s dead. It’s completely empty. They have a website, but it’s really not working for them. It’s heartbreaking. Owners can’t make it if there are only three occupied tables on a Friday night.”
The idea became fully formed while Vielmas was talking with Grazia Italian Kitchen owner Adrian Hembree. “I was helping him with his website and he said, ‘Look, I have a limited menu I want to offer right now for pickup, but Doordash is just killing me with its fees.’” In response, Vielmas and his development team at blu27 created an online ordering system for both Grazia locations and Hembree’s Food Truck. The system is fully branded as Grazia and the entire experience to the customer is within the Grazia brand. These examples can be viewed online. The same service can be built for any restaurant or other business offering products for to-go or delivery. “Doing business with blu27 was a no-brainer,” says Hembree. “I’d already been paying three times more for a third-party delivery service’s online ordering system. Caesar created a solution that only costs 10%, but the real value is in his willingness to make updates to the system that allow us to execute on new restaurant ideas — such as Grazia’s new box lunches — right away.”
The features of blu27’s online order page service include:
- NO upfront fees to build
- Free initial phone consultation
- Cost is only 10% of net sales made through the blu27 system
- There are no other charges or surprise fees
- Online order system built to reflect the restaurant’s brand
- Ongoing maintenance and support provided, including menu updates and price changes
- Site hosting included
- No locked-in contract period; cancel anytime
For owners who already use any of the third party online ordering/delivery services , Vielmas recommends keeping them — for now — and adding the blu27 system. That means getting online sales from all possible fronts while gradually encouraging customers to shift to ordering directly on the new online order system — and increasing profit margins every time they use the new system.
“A lot of services out there offer you a store for $99 per month,’ you upload a spreadsheet with a menu, and it’s done. There’s very little support if you want to change something, or add an image or create a special of the day,” explained Vielmas. “That’s not what I’m trying to do. What I want to do with local restaurants is get that burden of the website off of their backs so they can focus on their businesses. We have the team and the bandwidth, so we just take care of it.”
As far as keeping up with the higher customer demand for delivery goes, many restaurant owners have already turned to keeping staff employed by having them handle the deliveries. (Owners should check into any auto and business liability insurance requirements needed before employing drivers.)
Vielmas says that it generally takes blu27 three to six months to break even on its work at the 10% commission rate, so he’s looking to cultivate long-term business relationships with owners. “I’m always just a phone call away,” he said. What I want to say to restaurant owners is, ‘You’re already busy thinking about your food, your customers, your employees and how to survive right now, let me worry about your web presence and online store.’ ”