WOWorks, a company full of better-for-you restaurants, put itself in a prime position for growth in 2023, with one of its most important ventures being renewed technology integrations.
These new partnerships include QU, OLO Rails, OLO Dispatch, PUNCHH, and World Pay.
The updates will improve operations for WOWorks’s point-of-sale systems, menu management platforms, third-party delivery options, payment processing, and customer loyalty programs.
As of now, four of six WOWorks brands have moved seamlessly onto one tech stack, with plans to integrate Zoup! Eatery and Barberitos later this year. The company acquired the two chains in 2022 for an undisclosed amount, joining Saladworks, Frutta Bowls, Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, and The Simple Greek.
The tech stack upgrades are proving beneficial for employees, customers, and franchisees alike.
“We have several franchisees that own multiple brands, so for them to be able to have one system operationally is a major win for them,” says Kyle Mark, CIO of WOWorks. “Cross-brand franchisees love it.”
In guest retention and acquisition, PUNCHH has offered improved support. It allows for direct messaging between the guest and the brand, a sharpened loyalty program, and the ability to run promotions. Mark believes PUNCHH and the data it provides are the future of what cross-brand loyalty looks like.
“The biggest benefit of PUNCHH is that we can really know the guests,” Mark says. “It’s all about the data and using it to help all our brands.”
The refined loyalty program uses customer data to find correlations between WOWorks offerings and invites guests to visit co-brand locations, thus strengthening the relationship between customers and restaurants.
Additionally, WOWorks is using technology to ramp up its virtual brand presence. An example of this venture is Soupworks, a virtual extension of Saladworks.
“We put Soupworks on third-party partners and it’s done extremely well,” Mark says. “So, what we’re looking at now is our first phase of doing this same thing with our other brands and focusing in on those lesser-known aspects that we offer.”
Phase two of WOWorks’s virtual brand integration will include launching the latest items, which either need to be tested or would not work in a brick-and-mortar environment. Either way, Mark sees these ghost concepts as an additional segment of revenue.
In other instances, WOWorks will team with outside sources, like Virtual Dining Concepts.
“We’re partnering with other companies like Virtual Dining Concepts for some of their pieces that we can offer in-store,” Mark explains. “We’re doing a pilot phase with Cake Boss right now, and that’s a major initiative for us.”
WOWorks’ technological transformation didn’t come without skepticism. Marks explains that at first, franchisees were hesitant to rip out their systems in favor of a new one. There were concerns about employee training slowing operations, but the result was far from it.
“With this new technology, we were focused on ease of use,” Mark says. “It was fun to watch employees pick up on it immediately.”
Multi-unit franchisees are among the first to experience the benefit of these partnerships. They are seeing a greater level of operational efficiency than ever before, and this is trickling down to single-unit franchisees, who are taking advantage of the wealth of data now available to them through technology like OLO, QU, and World Pay, Mark says.
OLO Rails allows one location to manage multiple menus and automatically distributes them to third-party marketplaces. OLO Dispatch offers branded delivery directly through sites and apps to strengthen the relationship between the concept and the guest.
Likewise, OLO’s menu management system keeps WOWorks from having to cut online options. This is beneficial to customers and franchisees, as anything done in-store can also be done online.
“I’ve seen brands cut what they offer on their website because whatever system they’re using might not be capable. So that’s one of the reasons we went with OLO specifically,” Mark explains. “They offer a lot of menu management options to make that easier […] but also for the customer to see, absorb, and decide on what they want.”
For a company like WOWorks, creating consistency with six distinct brands is paramount. Marks says the brand is continuously working towards creating “The WOW! Way” in its operations, technology, and marketing departments.
Additionally, WOWorks continues to grow its network of franchisees. There are franchising opportunities available in 49 states (all except Hawaii). Franchise owners, like the brand’s portfolio, are incredibly diverse, with backgrounds ranging from the military to hospitality.
Systemwide, WOWorks operates more than 350 locations and oversees more than 7,000 employees. In 2022, it opened 14 units (four Saladworks, two Frutta Bowls, one Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, three Zoup! Eatery, and four co-brand locations) and signed 21 franchise deals (eight Saladworks, two Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, eight Frutta Bowls including co-brand locations, two Barberitos, and one Zoup! Eatery). The company also opened two new hubs with ghost kitchen operator REEF Technology, raised $150,000 for No Kid Hungry, and provided 1.5 million meals for children with food insecurity.
In 2023, the company’s first major goal is to get all six of its brands onto a single tech stack. Work is being done on the back end to unify databases as well. The multi-brand platform will also use polished technology to build a custom intranet called “WOWnet,” which will eventually become the centerpiece of all operations.
“We’re building a data warehouse on the back end to store all of our data and make that readily accessible to everybody,” Mark says. “Then we can make more decisions based on that data versus intuition. We’re heavily data-driven, so that’s one of our big focuses for 2023.”
WOWorks is looking forward to a new year full of innovation, strategy, and growth between brands, Mark says.