Editor’s Note: This content was originally created by our team for the City of Escondido.
They say necessity is the mother of all invention. Such is the case with two apps created by Escondido locals. Below, we take a look at how these apps are curbing consumers’ “app-etite” while boosting business for local restaurants.
Escondido resident Rudy Rodriguez is a software engineering manager at Northrop Grumman. Using his expertise, he has created an app that allows restaurants to highlight their daily specials and deals while giving users insider deals at special prices. Like apps such as Groupon that give users access to daily specials, FabnGrab gives users access to food specials from local eateries that might often be overlooked or not promoted elsewhere.
“Our main mission is to help locally owned restaurants get more foot traffic into their eateries and get more customers,” said Rodriguez, founder and CEO of FabnGrab.
Blueprint: The FabnGrab app launched on April 10 exclusively in Escondido, and is currently in its beta phase. Rodriguez is currently working solely with Escondido restaurants to build the app, modify it, and adapt it so that he can begin to grow and expand FabnGrab into greater San Diego and beyond. By using Escondido as a blueprint for other cities, Rodriguez feels he can really understand the needs and desires that both restaurants and users are looking for in an app.
Like most businesses, COVID-19 had a big impact on the development and design of this app. “Originally the idea was just going to be an app for lunch specials,” Rodriguez said. “But when COVID hit, we pivoted.”
Now the app includes menu specials that can be purchased throughout the day. It also allows businesses to highlight items that may not be otherwise known. For instance, Cute Cakes, one of the Escondido businesses that is signed up with FabnGrab, has a Mimosa deal on Fridays and Saturdays for diners in the shop’s outdoor dining tent.
Another benefit to Escondido restaurants who sign on for the beta phase is there are no fees to join. Rodriguez envisions FabnGrab as an opportunity to help rebuild the community and help get customers back into their favorite restaurants and try new ones. “We are creating a customer experience that will have customers returning to dining and finding deals,” said Rodriguez.
Data Driven: Not only do restaurant owners get the benefit of greater foot traffic, Rodriguez also plans to give them data. “We ultimately want to use data to drive consumer behavior and help the restaurants,” he said.
By knowing their customers, and which specials get the most use, restaurants can target consumers with specials that meet their desires. This information can also be used for holiday specials and celebrations.
Likewise, customers will begin to receive customized push notifications when their favorite restaurants are posting new deals and trending specials.
Future Growth: Currently the team at FabnGrab is small, consisting of just Rodriguez, his Co-Founder Keith Conway; Director of Engineering Paul Schaeffer; and Zack Robb, Customer Experience Lead. They also have an overseas team who ensures reachback support. But as developers, the team is able to create, develop, and update the app together without the need for additional developers, which also helps keep overhead low. As FabnGrab expands into neighboring cities, Rodriguez hopes to grow the team.
FabnGrab hopes to have 50 Escondido restaurants on the app before expanding into other local cities this summer. Longer term, FabnGrab is expected to expand into Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2022.
App-etizing: Hungr, a mobile ordering and delivery service, was inspired by a work trip. The founders were at a convention center in a city they didn’t know and they were hungry. They realized the need for an app that would find local eateries, show menus, and deliver the food to them. From that desire, Hungr was born.
In 2012, they created a mobile app for restaurants that allowed customers table-side ordering in lieu of a waitstaff. In 2014, they expanded their app and added a driver network to help deliver food for restaurants that didn’t have their own delivery services. Hungr now includes over 60,000 restaurants throughout the US.
Competition: Based in Escondido, Hungr stands out from its competitors as it places its focus on customer service and gives restaurant owners a lower, constant flat rate charge of 12%.
“Our percentage rate is one of the lowest of any delivery platform and it includes all credit card processing,” said Aaron Mortensen, a co-founder and Escondido resident. “The way we compete is through our quality of service.”
Secret Ingredient: Keeping food hot and fresh is also a priority. They found that food packing plays a large part in making sure the food gets to the customer hot and fresh. “We spent a lot of time finding thermal bags that have heat packs in them,” said Mortensen. “We also ask restaurants to separate the food if they have different temperatures. So salads go in one bag and steaks go in another.” As a result food keeps its temperature no matter the distance the driver has to go. Unlike other delivery services, Hungr doesn’t have delivery limits.
“We delivered Perterson’s Donuts to Hemet,” said Mortensen. He explained these were a Mother’s Day delivery for a family that has a longstanding tradition of Peterson’s Donuts on Mother’s Day, but due to COVID-19 they couldn’t be together.
Escondido deliveries have gone as far as Bonsall, Valley Center, Palomar Mountain, and Ramona. The longest delivery Hungr logged was 150 miles. A wedding ordered 10 dozen donuts from Peterson’s Donuts. Delivery charges to the customer are competitive with other mobile apps. They have a $3 minimum charge for the first three miles or less and an additional $1.10 charge per mile.
To maintain such a high quality customer service, Hungr trains its restaurant clients to bag the food properly and maintain proper delivery conduct through training videos and manuals they provide when restaurants join the app. Mortensen added, “We make sure that a high customer service level is provided from the beginning to end.”
Pandemic COVID-19 increased the number of food deliveries which helped many restaurants stay afloat but with dining rooms closed, many still had no work for their servers. The Hungr team found a way to help keep them employed.
“We reached out to restaurants, whether they were working with us or not, and fast-tracked servers to be drivers,” said Mortensen.
Hungr Heroes: Mortensen and his team also launched a Hungr Heroes program during the pandemic, which allowed customers to buy meals for hospital staff, firefighters, police officers and front line workers. This program has continued and expanded to include the homeless.
“We are a very community-oriented company,” said Mortensen, who strives to maintain a community feel with his company. He said customers get to know their drivers and realize they are getting the best delivery service with Hungr whether they are in Escondido or anywhere in the country.