In 2012, payments seemed to be the horse to ride in on for marketing services, as SMBs saw the coming era of mobile payments as an opportunity to dislodge credit card companies with cheaper payment processing, coupled with complete suite of analytics, promotions, and loyalty services. Key candidates included Google Wallet, ISIS, PayPal, First Data,Groupon’s Gnome (a little later), LevelUp Swipely and Punchey.
Today, the space has evolved, with some companies dropping out or treading water – while new entrants, like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, have focused mostly on the payment side. What’s clear is that when it comes to marketing services, payments haven’t emerged as the anchor of a broader SMB marketing platform.
Against this backdrop, Swipely — a name that conjures up credit card swiping –has announced that it is rebranding to “Upserve.” We had a broad talk with CEO Angus Davis about the rebranding, where payments are, and his company’s next directions as it focuses entirely on the restaurant business. Davis notes that the 3 ½ year-old, Providence R.I.-based company has enlisted “thousands” of restaurants of varying sizes: 100+ locations, 20-30 locations, 2-4 locations and single unit. Cumulatively, they’ve served 11 million meals a month – which it reports is an annual increase of 172 percent over last year.
“Payments are the last reason that restaurants are motivated to buy the product,” says Davis. While payment processing credits reduce the amount that restaurants pay for Upserve, they are “not a reason to get excited to work with us.” Restaurants are more focused on anything that helps them provide higher level hospitality services. They get that via the insights that Upserve provides into diners, diner behavior, food, service and servers, he says. For some restaurants, the analytics may be more important than features like online ads and loyalty programs (although the latter is offered by Upserve).
A big priority for the company for the rebrand is to simply “catch up where the business and product and customers have been for a while,” says Davis. Upserve has essentially become “a management assistant that helps make smarter decisions.”
Using the service, restaurants receive a complete picture of their operations and their customers. The software remembers customers (birthdays, recent visits, transactions, favorite drinks). Its predictive software can also tell a restaurant how many diners are likely to show up at peak times, and even count how many of each type of dish will be ordered (i.e. 40 T-Bone steaks, 18 brick chickens).
It also scans social media to get a sentiment analysis of how customers feel about different dishes (“40 percent say that the chicken pot pie is too dry). Davis notes that at least half of online reviews mention at least one dish. The service can also sort results per server to determine server success with upsells, or selling wine, or perhaps, overuse of coupon codes.
New to the service this year is integration with OpenTable ERB, which will enable Upserve to work with table management. While some restaurants have switched to tablet systems for table management, 85 percent of OpenTable’s customers still use the dedicated hardware, says Davis.