Drive-thrus and fast casual dining were next on the scene, and today, e-commerce has seen digital food sales and delivery become a driving force behind restaurant brands. The challenge at this current stage of transformation is how to execute a profitable digital model that scales beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant and existing solutions.
Top restaurant and food brands were not partnering with third-party delivery companies and ghost kitchens because they were concerned about brand standards and poor customer experience. As a result, these companies and kitchens had a hard time being profitable at scale because they were stuck with small AOVs (Average Order Values) and unsophisticated restaurant operators.
Devin knew that the solution lay in having more than one location operate as the place for consumers to easily order multiple cuisines and brands, providing a multiplier effect of more orders, higher average checks, and more satisfied customers who could mix and match their favorites in one meal. He founded Crave to engage leading restaurant brands by providing a virtual food hall using a ghost kitchen format and proprietary technology focused on multi-location, multi-brand enterprise restaurants.
In order for Crave to become a success, Devin had to nail the technology. His vision was dependent on a scalable tech infrastructure consisting of consumer interfaces and facility management software. Having worked with OAK’S LAB on other startup projects, he selected us as his partner to turn his vision into a real product that would transform the industry.
Restaurant management systems typically target one single brand because they are built for in-person dining when one customer orders directly from one brand. With e-commerce hitting the restaurant industry, online ordering has now extended the technology to the consumer, but the “one-order, one-brand” mentality is still engrained in the tech.
We needed to build a new solution that “Amazoned” the ordering process, offering multiple brands within one order that would be filled seamlessly from a single restaurant or ghost kitchen. This would result in higher basket size and lower costs for delivery and bring profitability to delivery and ghost kitchens by combining nationally recognized brands, local restaurant brands, and influencer-backed ‘virtual’ brands.
In order to allow one operator to manage multiple brands across multiple locations, we needed to create a solution that was better than what currently existed on the market.
At the heart of the Crave buildout was a clear roadmap that aligned the business goals and outcomes with our product team’s capabilities. The roadmap we put together for Devin allowed us to break the project down into different product and business phases so that we could measure our progress while having a clear plan for the future.
Prior to building the product, it was vital for us to understand who we were building it for, what the current competitive landscape looked like, and how we should tailor our product development process to fit the needs of the project. In this phase, we laid the foundation for the project and delivered everything from market research and user personas to user flows and stories.
Once we had a clear scope for the MVP in place, we moved on to the design phase. In this phase of the project, the main objective was to prepare everything for the engineering team to operate as efficiently as possible while ensuring that the first release of the product delighted our early adopters. We focused on delivering the design system, infrastructure proposal, and software architecture amongst other deliverables.
We also worked closely with Crave's in-house marketing team to evolve the brand in order to evoke the feeling of high quality yet retain the familiarity that comes with comfort food. Throughout our creative journey, we helped create a style guide covering the logo, color palette, typography, and product usage guidelines.
We then proceeded to build out Crave’s MVP to be tested, iterated, and refined in Crave’s own ghost kitchen facility in Meridian, Idaho, which opened in 2020.
We architected and engineered a robust multi-platform system allowing customers to mix and match their favorite dishes from different restaurants within one order through one website or application. The platform routed all orders to the Crave facility and distributed them to each specific restaurant kitchen through a kitchen display system. The entire facility was then administered by a comprehensive facility management and logistics web portal.
In 2021, Crave began licensing the technology platform, and we began testing with partners and integrating with leading players in the restaurant tech industry. The licensable software includes a POS for omni-channel ordering, a multi-brand restaurant management system, an enhanced kitchen display system, and a data warehouse for real-time analytics.
After the success of the Crave facility, we continued to validate assumptions, develop the tech stack, and test ghost kitchen strategies. We split our squads to focus on maintaining the current platform while continuing to scale the solution. We began to scope and build out a small-scale kitchen setup alongside a kiosk ordering system. We ran group testing to validate these before we launched Crave’s second location in Downtown Boise, Idaho, which validated how Crave operates in small-scale facilities. This has ultimately allowed us to open Crave’s multi-brand digital kitchen franchise model.
To date, OAK’S LAB continues to focus on scaling the platform for rapid growth, partner integrations, and an extended network of restaurants and brands across the US.
The success of their ghost kitchen laid the foundation for Crave to build a next-gen software business, licensing the software to top restaurant and food brands around the world.
Crave has currently raised $16M and helps major brands like CitiKitch, Family Entertainment Center, Red Robin, Chef’s Local Harvest, and more to better operate their brands and their kitchens. In the digital age transforming operations in the restaurant industry, the proprietary multi-brand technology solution that OAK’S LAB built from scratch continues to gain interest and be a modern, profitable e-commerce solution for food.
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