Ahead of his keynote address at the Food on Demand Conference, we sat down with Olo CEO Noah Glass to get a preview and some insight into the key things to watch in the restaurant technology space this year.
Noah Glass is all in on the concept of digital hospitality. The founder and CEO of Olo said he’s seen his segment of the industry transform dramatically over the last 17 years, especially in the last two years, but he’s especially excited about what’s on the horizon.
What started as a way for restaurants to do takeout better has become a public restaurant technology juggernaut at the center of the modern enterprise restaurant technology stack.
“We’ve seen over time that digital has become more mission critical,” said Glass. “So many brands during COVID said they wouldn’t have continued existing without a platform like Olo to let them order because of what COVID did to our core dining-room business.”
The pandemic pushed the industry to accelerate the shift to digital, and much of the industry has some work to do to “lay the train tracks for digital ordering,” as Glass says, but he’s most excited about the potential to come. Namely the powerful data that comes along with the growing number of digital transactions.
That’s what drew legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer into the mix—he joined the Olo board in 2014.
“He saw it as a tool for hospitality, a CRM platform that could keep records of each of his customers across his restaurant portfolio and understand what they like and disliked and empower his reservationist through the tools to provide better hospitality,” said Glass. “The opening act is laying the train tracks for digital ordering, but all the data you get from that, that can let us at scale at a Shake Shack size.”
That’s the potential for what he calls “digital hospitality,” something only possible with the data flowing through digital operations.
“Being able to treat every guest like a regular, I love that as an ambition for what digital hospitality represents. Say it’s the first time you’re walking into this restaurant and the person serving you has been there a week; I’d like them to be able to deliver an experience for you like you’ve been coming for 10 years. That what we mean by digital hospitality and what so much of our effort is driving toward.”
While Olo became well known for its work in delivery, it’s clear Glass and the company are very excited about the potential to go inside restaurants in a bigger way. And the company is doing a lot to get there. It acquired the customer engagement company Wisely in November of 2021 to bring the customer data platform (CPD) tools in house and build on that. Glass said that’s the next phase in restaurant loyalty.
“The traditional earn-and-burn mentality is only giving brands visibility into 15 percent of their customer base as an industry average. It’s not necessarily the most valuable 15 percent, it’s just 15 percent and those that want discounts,” said Glass. “What is so compelling about CDP and how it’s such an enlightened form of loyalty, it represents 100 percent of customers and scores them on their behavior digital and in-store, so the brand can identify the top 20 percent that drive 60 percent of all transactions—that’s important.”
Olo’s acquisition of Omnivore is another step into the restaurant, and Glass said it helps partners get even more visibility inside restaurants. It’s still fresh, the acquisition was just announced in February of 2022, but it represents more than 300 inroads to the digital kitchen.
“The platform now has 300 partners that are integrated, some legacy and some from Olo,” said Glass. “It’s helping us do more in the on-premises space. That’s the logical place to go because restaurants and consumers are ready for it. I want to get data from those transactions and use that to improve those transactions.”
Where the industry goes in the next year is anyone’s guess, but if you ask Glass, the smart money is on closer consumer relationships, better digital tools and a deeper focus on finding value in data, not gut checks.
Hear more from Noah Glass at the 2022 Food On Demand Conference, happening May 4-6 in Las Vegas. Learn more and register here.