It’s the lunch hour in downtown Minneapolis. Office workers steadily stream into the Canadian Pacific Plaza and hunt for a shady spot to eat. Many of them have picked up lunch from the dozens of food trucks lining the streets.
Amid the bustle, Tom Heinrich stops at a few trucks and hands out flyers for a new product – something he says will make life easier for food truck operators and their customers.
From the consumer’s perspective, what’s more convenient than grabbing lunch from a food truck? You walk out of your office, find your favorite truck, order food, and walk away with a lunch. Unless, of course, you could order before leaving your office.
Warren Nash, co-founder and CEO of EasyEats
Enter EasyEats, a new Eden Prairie-based platform. Through the software, customers can place their order online and get a text when their food is ready – eliminating the need to wait in line.
Heinrich, who runs the G.I. Joe’s food truck, is touting the platform’s benefits for food truck operators, too. EasyEats enables operators to run an entirely paperless operation, he says. Through the platform, food truck staff can see all upcoming orders in one place – something that boosts efficiency, Heinrich says.
“This gave me the opportunity to move away from paper and be proactive in food preparation,” he says. “Basically, it’s led to faster turnaround time.”
And for the modern consumer, convenience is king. Witness the proliferation of food delivery services like UberEats, DoorDash, and GrubHub, just to name a few. Morgan Stanley analysts say delivery services could make up as much as 40 percent of total restaurant sales by 2020.
EasyEats has been about two-and-a-half years in the making, says co-founder and CEO Warren Nash. He says he found inspiration for the idea after hearing about a “stock market-esque” pricing board at a Chicago restaurant. The board automatically adjusted prices of beers based on demand, says Nash, who previously worked as a finance manager with Optum.
So, he recruited a few programmer buddies and began brainstorming. Could they create a similar point-of-sale (POS) system for restaurants?
It was a novel concept, Nash says, but they ended up ditching the stock-market idea and heading in a different direction. Instead, they decided to develop a POS system for food trucks. Nash felt it was a niche that nobody had tapped into yet.
To be sure, food truck operators do have other POS options, like Square. But those don’t offer online ordering options, Nash notes. And those kinds of systems are still primarily paper-based, he adds.
Nash envisions EasyEats as a hybrid between a simple payment platform and a full-scale restaurant POS.
“Full restaurant point-of-sale systems are very complex and very expensive,” he adds.
POS systems for brick-and-mortar restaurants also have a lot of features that aren’t necessary in a food truck setting. For instance, these systems typically include tools for seat assignments and reservations.
EasyEats includes some features unique to food trucks, too. The platform has a geolocation feature, which customers can use to find their food truck of choice.
For now, EasyEats is just a software platform; food truck operators still need to supply their own tablets, though Nash provides recommendations.
Nash says about 10 food trucks are currently using EasyEats, and about five more have committed to adopting it. He began beta testing the product in April.
Nash says there are about 200 trucks in the state of Minnesota, and he’s aiming to get as many on board as possible. Eventually, he’s hopes to grow beyond the state. For now, though, he’s focused on fixing any remaining bugs and working closely with his existing customers.
“We definitely need to expand at some point,” Nash says. “As far as my strategy goes, we’re going to be spending pretty much the rest of the year in Minnesota, and getting more features added.”
G.I. Joe’s operator Heinrich says first heard about EasyEats after Nash approached a local group of food truck operators. So far, the system has been good for business, Heinrich says, which is why he’s willing to help out with word-of-mouth marketing efforts.
“It pays off for me in the efficiency. It makes me faster,” Heinrich says. “The more sales I can put through, the higher my return is.”