Waitr: The Wait is Over
By Braylin Jenkins
The Entrepreneur in its Natural Habitat
Take an entrepreneur, an idea, and a need; you’ll end up with success beyond imagination, or at the very least, all the right ingredients to become successful. Chris Meaux, now a Lake Area resident, came to the realization early on that society wants life to be more convenient. For decades, in some form or fashion, he has worked to improve the lives of those around him. Chris has long been a resident of the entrepreneurial world. While living in Southlake, Texas, Chris worked in the restaurant business, and admits that he did well; however, he envisioned the future including the Internet. The future is now, and consumers want to order their food on the Internet and have their meal delivered to their door. He founded Meaux’s To Go, which offered healthy (yet tasty) food options, but the order had to be placed on-line during dinner, but the customer could select delivery time. The concept caught on, but their commercial kitchen space was purchased, knocking them out of the leased space. The concept (online, virtual kitchen); however, developed the seed for Chris.
In 2015, we hardly have time to accomplish our daily tasks, let alone, tend to our personal needs: eating, sleeping, and so on. Being the forward thinker that he is, Chris took notice of this and headed to Gainsville, Florida to attend Start Up Weekend - an entrepreneurial idea sharing event. This eventually led to the concept known by us as the Waitr App. In August of 2013, he brought Startup Weekend, to Lake Charles, Louisiana. Attendees of Startup Weekend make initial pitches, then are grouped with others who have a similar concept, or others that may complement the group at large. A student from the University of Florida pitched the idea for a smart phone application called Waitr. He [the UF student] and Chris were grouped together to further develop their concepts. Their group (of five) continued with the idea, expanding it to more than the search option. The idea sparked the thought, ‘what if someone could walk into a restaurant, sit down at the table, order - and pay on their phone - and leave once ready?’ Within fifty-four hours, that thought evolved into the prototype of an app that allows you to dine in; carry out; or have your meal delivered. Oh yea, the idea also won the Start-up Competition. The student - who initially had the concept of Waitr was employed by another start up at the time, which led Chris to suggesting that he [Chris] develop the prototype. Chris explained that at that point, he was determined to make their start-up competition winning dream a reality saying, "I'm going to take it back to Lake Charles; I'm going to find two technical co-founders and we're actually going to make a company out of Waitr, so that's what I did.” As promised, Chris carried the torch, bringing the idea to Lake Charles, and officially ignited the flame (one of the greatest things to ever happen to my eating routine).
Running Down a Dream
Chris contacted McNeese State University to find software programmers who understood iOS and Back-end software programming. He received a reply from two brave young students, interested in his endeavor, Adam Murnane and Manuel Rivero. The two students became co-founders of Waitr, Inc. established in December of 2013. 10,000+ man-hours have been put toward the project over the course of a year and half. Chris states that it was a huge undertaking and the project is never finished. Currently, there are six full-time employees; however, during the first year, there were only the three founding members - who worked without pay - developing the app. April of 2014, Waitr enters and wins the business pitch competition in Lake Charles, LA. One month later, the Waitr, Inc. team raised $200,000 from local Angel Investors. The investment was used to commercialize the product, hire a business development team, as well as a few part-time workers to begin reaching out to restaurants. They even managed to reunite with two of the University of Florida students, (now Alumni), Evan Diaz de Arce and Addison Killebrew. Evan and Addison rejoined the Waitr, Inc. team, and have been actively growing the company and brand.
Boat Rocking, Door Knocking
Chris admits that the process of bringing restaurants on board was challenging saying, “A new product, no one had ever seen it, we didn’t have any restaurants on board. We had to get several restaurants in order to get consumers to use it.” Further elaborating, Chris adds, “We had a couple of brave restaurants that agreed to try it, people started to use it, that led us to be able to sign more restaurants and now we have over twenty restaurants locally, we’re starting to move into our second market which is Lafayette (Louisiana), and it has all started to balloon from there.” Waitr is also a valuable tool for our local restaurants. Usage data has shown that consumers tend to order more by way of the app than they would by phone, and there is no longer a need for employees to dedicate time to answering phones. This means higher profits and fewer expenses for restaurants. The order is sent to the restaurant on a dashboard after the customer places their order, making for a smoother process for both parties.
Just the Tip...of the Iceberg
Chris added that people with great ideas usually don’t want to share their idea, but the idea alone is not what generates success. What makes a startup successful is how you execute. The app that consumers see on their smartphone, or device, is just the tip of the iceberg; the true art is how well it functions behind the scenes. The Waitr, Inc. team has built a complete data architecture, which acknowledges the complexity of restaurant, and allows consumers to modify their selection - or include endless additions/substitutions to their order. Chris states, “Here’s an interesting concept; people think you create an app and it’s done, right? And there are thousands, maybe millions out there that do that, right? That app is dead on arrival. We’re not creating an app; we have actually created a business that allows us to work with restaurant partners to bring them orders. We are generating a business that helps local businesses increase their own business. In order to do that, it’s an extremely complicated process.”
Nearly two-dozen restaurants have signed on to date. Mr. Bill's Seafood Express, Southern Spice, Zeus Cafe, Pitt Grill, Big Daddy's, Street Breads, Cotton's Hamburgers, PG's Diner, Dan's BBQ, OB's Bar & Grill. Buffi's Peaux Boys, Pujo Street Cafe, Chez Cafe, Yank SIng, Casa Manana, Steamboat Bills, Green House Salad Co., Fox's Pizza on Nelson Road.
If you want to make your life and schedule simpler, I suggest you download the Waitr App to your device. It is great for ordering lunch on a tight schedule and taking away stress that can come with eating out in general. Also, be sure to let your favorite (local) restaurants know you’d like to see them in the Waitr menu.
Download the Waitr App (on iOS devices) in the App store here
You can also follow Waitr on social media for the latest additions and announcements:
A Note from the Editor
Don't let "them" turn our metaphorical
Whataburger into a literal Starbucks...again.
In the next few years, I am certain we will see an increase in Waitr usage. With that, we will slowly begin to abandon those restaurants that have resisted the smooth sound of convenience (Waitr App), and sadly, over time, those restaurants will not be able to compete in a dynamic market. So do your stomach a favor, make sure your favorite eateries make the cut, tell 'em, 'Macho Man Randy Sammich sent ya'. We (Exposure Magazine) use the Waitr app EVERY SINGLE DAY, not only because we want to support local business, but also because it is a GREAT idea. The only thing that would make it better is if they were to add Whataburger to their selection. But from a business standpoint, we used the Waitr app, consecutively for three days; in those three days, I ate food from three restaurants that I had never previously given my money to. Think about that for a second. Not only did three local businesses gain a new customer, but also, three businesses - that currently do not use Waitr – lost a customer. If you also consider the traffic issues that will accompany this region’s economic expansion, the ability to deliver food to customers (without having to staff drivers) will soon be a ‘food-business essential’. Not to mention, the costs of gaining customers is exponentially higher than retaining them. This app is a goldmine for local restaurateurs, and we (Exposure Magazine) will do everything in our power to help them succeed… even if it means spending every dime we have on food.
"Jenkins for Governor"
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