Chris Wendel of Safe Eats LR stepped up during a time when restaurants need as much connectivity as possible with their audience. Let’s find out a little bit about what he does and how he can continue to help restaurants throughout the area.

Would you tell us a little bit about your business? 

I believe in giving businesses the tools they need to connect with their customers in a constantly changing digital market. I have always been interested in new technology, whether it be software or hardware, and realize how difficult it can be for business owners to operate a business while also keeping up with all the tools that can be used to connect with customers. I figured it was the perfect place for me to jump in and help. Therefore, using my passion for technology I help businesses create digital marketing campaigns using the newest tools and processes available.

What motivated you to start Safe Eats LR?

Honestly, I saw an opportunity to provide value in the community and I jumped on it. Very rarely do you get the opportunity to be one of the first to do something in a market, that’s a really unique chance to create something with little expectation for the final result. I saw some other cities doing similar things but ultimately did not think they were very helpful because they just told you if a restaurant was open. My thought was, “why not create an easy-to-use website that has all the information you need to get in touch with these restaurants?” Today, people want their information served on a silver platter. If you can’t do that, they leave. It’s why you see Google adding relevant content to their search results, so the users don’t have to click anything. Therefore, Safe Eats LR was a way to help local businesses and their customers while doing something I love doing, designing easy-to-use websites.

What’s the response been like so far?

I had very little expectations going into this, so I think I have had a fantastic response. I had so many restaurants message me on Day One that I had to build an automated system to pull all their data from my form into the database. My wife was helping me take the form submissions and fill them into the site just to keep up the first day. Since then, I have gotten about 3-5 new restaurants per day. As for users, we have had about 5,000 users total. I have continued to add new functionality like filters, random sorting, and search to try to make it easy to use. Ultimately, I’d love for users to bookmark the page and use the randomize button to try new places and help keep these local restaurants afloat during this tough time.

The LR Safe Eats site is just one facet of what you do. What other services do you provide to local restaurants?

When the quarantine was first announced, I was contacted by Judy Adams at Catering to You, one of my current clients, about accepting credit cards online. I knew I could set up credit cards payments but figured I could do one better and put the whole ordering process online. Within about 12 hours we had their entire menu online and on Facebook and customers could order without sitting on hold on the phone. Immediately after finishing Catering to You, I walked across the street and connected with the team at Trio’s. They were online the next morning. Since then, I have been trying to connect with as many local restaurants as possible to help them set up online ordering.

Could you explain how restaurants are charged for your services?

My goal with this was never to make a profit. I am just trying to make it through this quarantine as many of my other clients are having to close their doors. Therefore, I am trying to make this as affordable as possible by charging restaurants a one-time fee to help set up the system and get it running. The beauty of this system is that it is $29/month for the software and is commission free (apart normal credit card fees). During normal operation, I think that these food delivery companies are amazing, but when a restaurant’s primary source of income is taken away with dining rooms closing, charging 30% of a ticket leaves little margin for the store. These restaurants are not trying to make a profit, they are trying to pay their staff and stay afloat. My hope is that the one-time fee will allow companies to collect as much of the ticket as they would with normal operations.

What are some of the restaurants who are already on board?

My first two restaurants were Catering to You and Trio’s. Both of these companies have hit the ground running and done an incredible job managing orders coming from both the app and their numerous phone lines. This past week I was contacted by the team at Yellow Rocket Concepts and we went live with all of their concepts within 4 days. You can now order directly through Facebook at Big Orange, Local Lime, ZaZa, and Heights Taco & Tamale Co. It has been really great to work with all of these companies and see them adapt to this ever changing situation. Normally restaurant’s dining rooms control the number of orders they take. Right now it’s about managing the peak hours and focusing on quality and quantity. Remember to keep tipping well. You only see one person bring the food to your car, but these restaurants are working overtime to ensure safety and keep serving you food.

Why do you believe it’s so important to embrace online technology to increase business?

This is always tough to answer because I can list off 50 reasons, however, given the current situation, there is a single great reason in my mind. Technology has created a way to connect with customers where they are, at home on the internet, and we have to use it. People aren’t driving by your business or going to happy hour, they are hanging out at home watching Tiger King and surfing social media. Businesses have to make it their ordering accessible to everyone and this is the perfect way to do it. You can now order margarita mix from Local Lime or Heights Taco & Tamale Co. in less than a minute. Additionally, this system does not replace phones. I think it is the perfect way for those comfortable with online ordering to place their orders while allowing those who aren’t to use the phone line, all the while increasing the total number of orders a restaurant can receive. Technology in business is not a “yes” or “no”, it’s an “in addition to.” To thrive in today’s market businesses have to connect with their customers on every level.

What’s the best way for an individual or restaurant owner to reach you?

Please reach out by phone (501-804-3778) or email:(chris@chrisjwendel.com). I would love to help any business that is trying to increase their orders and decrease their commissions. All you need in an internet connection at your store and a tablet that can stay on all day. I can do the set up completely remotely if we go into complete quarantine. If you are looking for a demo of the platform, head over to cateringtoyoulr.com and click the menu button in the bottom right. Additionally, you can head to the Facebook page of any of the restaurants above and click the “Shop Now” button.