Olo has powered BurgerFi’s online ordering system and entire technology suite since 2014, including automatic integration of third-party couriers into the POS system.
“Now they're the largest and most-recognized online ordering provider in the industry,” Guzzetta says. “But in 2014, they were still fairly new, and we were new, and signing on with them early on, I think gave us a very competitive advantage over a lot of the other burger players and fast-casual players out there. Launching our mobile application online ordering rewards programs and third-party delivery while still keeping that millennial-facing type of a brand today on our social has been big for the company.”
In 2019, roughly 35 percent of business was off-premises while 65 percent came from indoor dining. This year, that mix completely flipped. Sales outside the four walls continue to rise as more states shut down indoor dining.
“I think there's a lot of brands that weren't in that position and had to scramble at the last minute in March and April to add third-party delivery to their businesses,” Guzzetta says. “And they found some difficult headaches from that. Not only the commission fees, but how that changes the operations, labor model, packaging, and paper goods. Fortunately, we had that in place.”
Guzzetta says major third-party delivery providers are massive companies with customer bases larger than any one single brand could ever achieve. BurgerFi views this as a positive because the pandemic shifted many to third parties, which allowed the burger chain to place its offerings in front of new customers. Assuming they love the product, the brand can drive those customers into restaurants to get the full BurgerFi experience once restrictions lift.
The restaurant’s loyalty rewards program has nearly 300,000 members, a number that grew considerably during the pandemic. The goal is to increase membership to one million users. In 2021, BurgerFi plans to leverage its mobile app and website to push special promotions, marketing offers, limited-time items, and sneak preview items only available to loyalty members.
“I think ultimately it's something that a lot of brands are going to have to study post-pandemic,” Guzzetta says. “They may be relying on third-party delivery orders right now, but if you're unable to then turn those third-party delivery orders into full-time orders in the long run, then it's going to be a loss. We know that third-party deliveries take an enormous commission. We know that paper goods have gone up considerably this year, and that's OK in the short-term if you can turn those guests into full-time brand loyal guests in the long run. These are tactics that we’re working on on a daily base.”
BurgerFi bolstered its off-premises program even further when it signed a license agreement to open ghost kitchens through REEF Technologies. The two companies are basically neighbors—BurgerFi is headquartered in Palm Beach, Florida, while REEF resides in Miami. Since the deal, the burger brand opened 10 ghost kitchens in markets like Miami, Chicago, Portland, and Austin. By the end of 2021, BurgerFi plans to have 25 open across the country.
Guzzetta views it as a way to enter a difficult market where BurgerFi doesn’t have any brick-and-mortar units. He adds that because a city like Portland is so far away from Palm Beach, it would be risky to place a regular location there without proof of concept. However, ghost kitchens allow BurgerFi to bypass barriers to entry such as high taxes and occupancy and labor costs. It also helps the chain tap into additional share in existing markets, like Miami-Dade County.