Image

The Mag

Today we have with us Alex Popper with Hellometer. Welcome, Alex. 

 

Alexander Popper 

Hey, thanks, Lee. 

 

The Mag

Well, I'm excited to learn what you're up to tell us about Hellometer how are you serving folks?

 

Alexander Popper

Sure. So, Hellometer is an artificial intelligence tool that helps restaurant owners grow revenue using cameras to monitor and improve customer service times so in plain English its regular look and security cameras that monitor both drive-throughs and dining rooms and show you where and when your team is losing you revenue because your service speed is slow.

 

The Mag  

So now how is this kind of leveraging artificial intelligence

 

Alexander Popper 

So, it's entirely an artificial intelligence solution we actually deploy a fully-fledged neural network inside each restaurant that processes the video to understand what's happening in particular what your customers are experiencing

 

The Mag

So, what exactly am I seeing when you're recording?

 

Alexander Popper  

Yeah so, it's a great question there are two things that are happening the first is the camera is seeing a world that is really similar to what a self-driving car is seeing so you know, it's understanding people coming into the restaurant and what they're doing. And you can see that on the users end you know, through a video feed where you know, it's literally you know, identifying individual customers and where they are, you know, in there, in their process throughout your restaurant, whether they're going through the line or ordering or getting a food or sitting down. 

 

And then the other thing that you see is, you know, our service speed reports so you can imagine it a lot like a typical drive-thru timer, but for your dining rooms, as well as your drive-thru, where we're showing you what your speed of service looks like for each daypart, as well as outliers. Hey, you know, it looks like there was a 15-minute-long service interaction here as well as highlights about where and when there may be opportunities to boost revenue and improve that service.

 

The Mag  

So, when I'm looking at the, Am I ever looking at the video feed or I'm getting some data from the feed is kind of now taking what it's seeing and saying where there's room for improvement.

 

Alexander Popper

Yes, so it's all the above there's a video feed which you can view and then we report in three areas so we have an app that looks at the live speed of service and you can see that on your phone or a tablet. And again, the output is sort of similar to what a drive-thru time would give you. We also have a web app where you can go and drill down and look at a little bit more of kind of root cause analysis you know understand you know where there's bottlenecks and what's causing them and we get pretty granular with the data that we deliver so it's a tool to really kind of diagnose and then we also send daily emails to you know owners or you know, their management staff or even line employees showing them like across an enterprise how their speed of service looked like for the previous day as well as their performance relative to other you know, other locations in the brand.

 

The Mag  

So, can you share something that would be actionable that I would get from this as opposed to those other solutions?

 

Alexander Popper

Yeah, so it's really interesting you know when you begin to have a speed of service as a core component of your operations all of a sudden there's a lot of things that come to the forefront when you have that as kind of a spotlight so, for example, we just wrapped up a major case study with a large sandwich chain and they're able to improve you know, the typical speed of service for you know each franchisee by just shy of a minute so 47 seconds and that's coming from things like you know, understanding Hey, you know, we're understaffed during certain periods of the day or you know, we need to put up placards that are missing for you know, the actual recipes or there's training opportunities, or we need to help guests. navigate the menu, so that they go through the order step a lot, a lot, a lot more quickly. And so really being able to pinpoint and identify where there's parts of the business that you can start to actually pick up speed.




The Mag

So now, when you're kind of rolling this out, so first, I would imagine you're selling it to the franchisors in a lot of cases, is that correct?

 

Alexander Popper  

Um, actually, we sell primarily to the franchisees and that's because you know, what we do, what our goal is, is to actually boost revenue. You know, we there's a very direct relationship between speed of service and revenue, the upsides on this are for about every seven seconds, you can decrease the speed of service, you'll pick up at about a 1%, you know, increase in revenue, and that, you know, that that comes from winning market share away from nearby competitors, that comes from decreased customer churn. And so that, that tends to be really, really attractive to the individual franchisees.

 

The Mag 

So, so then that the individual franchisees, like, hey, the systems that were given to me, they're great, but I think we can tweak some stuff here, and I'm really curious to see how a meter can help me kind of improve what yeah,

 

Alexander Popper

that's, that's right, I think it's useful to sort of point out what Hello meter does, that's, that's really different and unique. So QSR is all about speed of service, it is quite literally in the name and the core value proposition. But historically, there have not been really good ways to measure that. I mean, for some brands, they have a POS, and you can look at, you know, the time between an order gets placed, and a time that the order gets completed. 

 

But that's it, it doesn't give you a lot of granularity, and there's all kinds of problems with that, right, it doesn't, it doesn't actually track the customer experience, which is, you know, as soon as they walk in the door, and so all of a sudden, we're able to give a reliable tool that can't be cheated, you can't bump orders up early, and really, really gives a very clear picture of each customer interaction. And that's, that's just not something that's been available to folks before. So, you know, especially for multi-unit owners who are not in their restaurant, each and every day, we're able to paint them a very clear picture of what's happening. And that's really exciting, especially when you can do that for you know, effectively an update to their security system.

 

The Mag  

And so the purpose of this and to be clear, the purpose of this isn't to go, Bob's not doing his job, it's to kind of get a holistic picture of ways to improve the speed of service and the and the customer experience.

 

Alexander Popper

That's exactly right. You know, for us, we build ourselves as an operations management platform, not a people management platform, you know, it's less about Bob and what he's doing and really understanding across your business, you know, where and when you're, you're simply losing revenue because service speed is slow. We think that that is a lot more interesting in terms of being able to increase your bottom line than you know, have closer management of like Bob directly

 

The Mag

If it's because you're working, you're trying to improve a system, you're not trying to solve an HR problem.

 

Alexander Popper 

Yeah, and you know, people are part of the system, and you know, it's not you know, part of the solution then may go and be you know, having to have conversations with Bob or you know, conversations with Bob's manager, but you know, the first step is really being able to identify where, where there are opportunities. And, and Bob is you know, Bob is a part of a complicated system but it's also larger, larger than just Bob himself.

 

The Mag

Right? But I would imagine if they're rolling this out or thinking about it there, they got to be mindful about how Bob is dealing with this in terms of his privacy and what you're looking for and looking at.

 

Alexander Popper 

Yeah, that's exactly right. And so, so precisely to your point, we don't you know, we don't what they call an AI is collecting PII personally identifiable information we don't, we don't uniquely identify Bob, everything that we surface is you know, aggregated and so, you know, we're, we, we work very hard to make sure that a there's a system in place where you know, folks can feel rewarded when there's good service outcomes, but be happy that they're not feeling penalized, or you know, uniquely called out or identified and work really, really hard to kind of uphold the highest expectations when it comes to you know, employee digital privacy.

 

The Mag

So now, how has the rollout been for you or the franchisees or is this something that's going like gangbusters that they're all kind of Hey, where's this been all my life or is this something that needs a lot of explaining and education to see the value?

 

Alexander Popper  

No, I, you know, it's not something that needs a ton of explanation. It's always been a good idea. You know, you take something like drive-throughs right. Um, drive-thru timers have been around since you know the 70s in various forms and you would never in a million years think of opening a drive-thru without a, you know, a drive-thru timer. Well, dining rooms really aren't any different. The only difference is that the technology just hasn't been there before. And so, it's really exciting, being able to deliver the first AI, timer for dining rooms, and also be able to apply that technology to drive-throughs as well.

 

The Mag 

So now how quickly can they start seeing actionable results from when they say, okay, we're flipping the switch, and all the cameras are on to Okay, now I got the information, now I can tweak the system a little bit.

 

Alexander Popper

So, it takes about a month to start to see really tangible results. And there's a couple of tail, you know, sort of classic things that we'll see. One is just, you know, a before and after difference in speed of service. Another thing that we'll see is, you know, typically, for multi-unit owners, they'll have kind of a range of performance, right, they'll have some locations that are performing really well, you know, some that are really performing pretty poorly. 

 

And once you start kind of managing based on the speed of service, you what we'll see is that that like, like bottom tier really beginning to disappear, and, you know, locations kind of converging. So, you know that stuff can happen as quickly as 30 days post, some of the things that you do to start addressing the speed of service issues do take a little bit of time, things like employee training, and so on. And so, some of the biggest results we'll see are about 60 days out.

 

The Mag  

Now, is there any type of placebo effect of just putting cameras in that improves the speed?

 

Alexander Popper

Oh, I think it's a huge effect. And I don't think it's a placebo, you know, what you're doing is there's all kinds of parts of your business where you have a lot of information, you have a lot of information about inventory, and a lot of information about revenue, and so on. And despite being a really important part of the QSR business, this is just not an area that that that there has been a lot of tools to really understand deeply. And so, once you know, once you start reporting on this stuff, it's really a strong signal to your staff that hey, guess what, this is something that is important that we care about it, and you know, we're tracking and reporting on it now. And that, that has a huge effect on the way that an organization runs.

 

The Mag

Now, is there a gamification element to this where I can be, you know, kind of seeing, which is the best performing store, and then everybody knows, and they can be working towards improving, you know, a number or metric.



Alexander Popper  

Absolutely, that that also is a very, very large, you know, and it's, it's passive, it's not part of the active management, but it is a very, very large component to success here is, you know, being able to show store's relative to themselves, how they're, you know, they're performing, and if they're improving, or if they're backtracking, you know, how they're doing relative to other locations in the brand. And we, we very much build gamification into the design. So, there's emails that I sent you that daily, we also have a weekly email that will show you know, a round-up of Hey, this is the best performing location, and this is, you know, this is the most improved, you know, in terms of the rankings or in terms of overall speed. And what we really love is, is the kind of engagement that that drives, you know, between managers and their staff.

 

The Mag

Now, so those emails go out to the individual employees as well.

 

Alexander Popper 

Yeah, I mean, well, we, you know, each brand runs a little bit differently. There's no one-size-fits-all here. And different brands care about different parts of their service. But you know, it can, it can be a signal that just goes to management, and it can be a signal that goes down to you know, everybody, everybody working, working the shift.

 

The Mag

So now what do you need more of at this point, you need just more brands to try this. Then, you know, is the technology, I'm sure the technology, it's always evolving, and you're always working on that. But what do you need more, more funding to just keep working on this?

 

Alexander Popper 

No, we're pretty well funded. So, we came out of Y Combinator last summer, which is really kind of the premier, you know, a seed-stage incubator for technology startups. Yeah, I mean, at this point, you know, what, what, what we always love to do is to start with, you know, new brands. So, there's, there's a bunch of brands that we've started having franchisees adopting, but, but we are we're always game to take on new franchisees or franchisors that are really interested in diving headfirst into the world of, you know, AI in the QSR space.

 

The Mag 

And then so it doesn't matter if they're an emerging brand with you know, 20 locations or do you prefer to work with those or do you want the, you know, multi 1000 unit.

 

Alexander Popper  

You know, the AI is agnostic, and it doesn't care, you know, if if you have one location or 40,000 locations, I do think that there's a real opportunity Here for emerging brands to begin to get a technological edge over, you know, competitors in their space that are maybe more established or larger, by being a little bit quicker and early into, you know, adopting AI technology, it's really a very different type of technology, the nature of AI is that it gets better, the more that it's used, because you're right, it is continually being trained. So, it learns from the data that it's exposed to. And what that means is that it will become more valuable more quickly to early adopters, as opposed to competitors who wait on the sidelines. 

 

So that's, that's a really unique property of AI. And it's fundamentally different than other technologies. And so, there's a real, real opportunity, therefore, for emerging brands, that that is kind of a little bit more nimble and able to adopt this in a way that that that established brands may take a little bit longer. Some brands are doing pretty, you know, McDonald's has been pretty bullish on adopting AI. But there has been a lot of kind of a conservative type of approach that I think that emerging brands can distinguish themselves by, by staying away from

 

The Mag  

Now, have you learned anything that like low-hanging fruit, ways to speed up the organization kind of in a generic way so that anybody could benefit? Like, have you learned anything, just best practices from seeing this being deployed in multiple locations and multiple brands? Multiple foods?

 

Alexander Popper 

Yeah, you know, I think I think the biggest one is the one that you mentioned, you know, call it a placebo effect, call it a spotlight. But you know, just having a signal that is true, that is, you know, it can't be cheated, it's really, really hard to, you know, to defeat a camera system that reports the speed of service. And that then makes that a part of your management process and practice. 

 

And so you know, now when you're having your team meetings, you're talking about speed, and you know, how long customers are waiting in line before they even get to the order, you know, you're beginning to reward based on that, that is a really easy thing that you can do, you know, again, for the price of a security system, that then can start to impact the bottom line pretty, pretty substantially. I mean, you know, that that, that average 47-second improvement that we're seeing, I mean, that's really huge, the implications that that has on everything from, you know, revenue to queue length to cuts customer satisfaction, and it really doesn't take that much to start to do that for your brand.

 

The Mag 
Good stuff. Well, congratulations on all the success if somebody wants to learn more, have a more substantive conversation with you or somebody on the team, what's a website?

 

Alexander Popper 

The best place to reach us is hellometer.io. So, it's h e l l o m e t r.io. Well, I should say we also have a newsletter as well. So, if you're interested in AI in the QSR space, we publish pretty regularly, you can sign up for that, and it's a pretty great place to start.

 

The Mag 

 

Well, Alex, thank you so much for sharing your story today.
Share your story with The Mag Business RadioX ®. Find and read for free a lot of helpful business articles & podcasts on our small business opportunities online magazine.

 

 

 

Image Source: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexanderpopper/