Restaurant software brand Omnivore is busting out of its Silicon Valley birthplace, where co-founder and CEO Mike Wior says the culture changed from a “renaissance of ideas” to an environment where top talent is frequently lured away by the Googles, Salesforces and Pied Pipers of the world. It will keep some staffers in the Valley and remote locations around the country, as it builds up its new headquarters in Tampa, Florida.
A year after Coca-Cola led a $10 million investment into Omnivore, which was a notable moment as the flashiest big-food brand jumping into the delivery business, the restaurant technology brand also brought on Dan Singer as its new chief operating officer. Both moves come as the company tripled its share of restaurant locations to more than 19,000—a solid foundation for its next phase of growth.
“Partly due to the success of some of those larger companies in the Valley, if you go visit Uber or Apple or Google … they’ve built these giant campuses and nobody leaves,” Wior said of his decision to move out of California. “That kind of cross pollination isn’t happening anymore, and a lot of the magic that was in the Valley as a result of that, a lot of that’s gone.”
The more tangible part of that shift, he added, was widespread difficulty in recruiting, hiring and maintaining key employees when tech juggernauts can offer $400,000 salaries and enormous signing bonuses, which Wior said has rippled through smaller employers in the region.
While it’s commonplace for large employers to bemoan the higher salaries in California, Wior said losing a “large percentage of your tribal knowledge and understanding of your product” was a more significant factor.
“It just becomes very hard to compete with those companies from a resources standpoint, even if people really believe in the vision of the company and what it is you’re trying to accomplish, and having success,” he said. “There’s just other parts of the country that are really starting to evolve and become great places to find technical talent.”
While moving the company headquarters 2,800 miles east is notable, Wior said his company decided years ago to decentralize its workforce, with several employees working remotely from cities across the country.
As Omnivore has expanded its staff to 55, while significantly growing the number of restaurants on its platform, Wior said it’s critical to pool leadership and other “highly communication-dependent teams” into an office together.
Its new space is just more than 4,000 square feet, which Wior expects to populate with 20 to 25 people by the end of the year.
Omnivore’s new COO, who was previously with FairWarning, has similar experience taking a small company through a period of intense growth. He and Wior met through local networking, and the CEO added that Singer can help as the company moves “into the more complex stages of funding and growth and M&A.”
Speaking about the fast-evolving restaurant industry, Wior added that the rate of technological change in restaurants isn’t going to slow down any time soon. As new customer-ordering operations bring additional complexity, especially in managing multiple menus that can be different from one region to the next, this succession of change will continue to fuel growth in the software side of the industry.
“The idea of having to maintain another menu is not a small thing, so restaurants are starting to take a step back and say, ‘OK, we played with a lot of things, we learned a lot, we probably weren’t as successful in bringing on the majority of those technologies as we would like to be, what happened?’” he said. “We’re shining light on what needs to take place at the foundation of your technology strategy to get yourself and your organization to a place where you can absorb and kind of sway with the growth of technology, rather than getting run over by it.”