Square's Caviar Is Another Food Ordering Service Player in the Delivery Space

Have you ever tried Caviar? No. I don’t mean the pickled roe of sturgeon eaten as a delicacy.

Caviar is a food ordering service for popular restaurants that was acquired in August of 2014 by Square, Inc., the business tools company famous for its point-of-sale software.

What’s interesting about this platform is that it only features a hand-curated list of restaurant partners.

“We have teams with deep local knowledge that hand-curate our restaurant list focused on working with the best restaurants in every city across cuisine types and price points,” said Nick Adler, Caviar’s market operations lead. “Our close restaurant partnerships, in combination with our full logistics and marketing solution, enable Caviar to offer quick and reliable delivery and pickup, helping businesses to reach more customers, grow their sales, and expand their reach.”

Since the acquisition, Caviar’s weekly order volume has grown more than 11 times according to Adler, who’s been working for the company for over two and half years leading all locals teams that work with the couriers and restaurants on the ground in each market the platform serves. “Delivery and pickup are great ways for restaurants to grow sales beyond their tables, which is aligned with Square’s founding mission to ensure that a seller never misses a sale,” explains Adler referring to the reason why Square decided to get into the food delivery business.

To further Square’s mission, Caviar provides a variety of cross-channel, co-marketing services for restaurant partners, which includes in-app alerts and banners, email, and social mentions. In addition, professional photography of each restaurant and every dish available for delivery is provided by the San Francisco-based company. 

One of Caviar’s exclusive restaurant partners is Souvla, a greek-inspired fast casual concept that continues to expand in the Bay Area. The restaurant’s owner, Charles Bililies, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “In 2014, delivery was zero percent of the business...now, it’s about 24 percent of the business, which is pretty remarkable,” leading him to take into account orders from Caviar with each new location opening. This explains the need to food delivery services like Caviar, UberEATS and Postmates, to name a few.

Caviar has partnered with thousands of restaurants across the country, featuring high-profile chefs like Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen, Rick Bayless of XOCO and Red O, Ken Oringer of Coppa and Toro and recognized restaurant groups like Garces Group in Philadelphia and The Meatball Shop in New York. The platform operates in specific areas, in the following locations: California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington State.

To learn more about Caviar, Foodable asked Nick Adler the following questions:

How does Caviar differentiate itself from its competitors?

Adler: Without referring to specific competitors, many of them don’t have a true partnership with restaurants and place phone orders without partnering with them. We are 100% focused on food. We don’t transport people, retail products, or other non-food items. Due to this focus on food, we’ve built unique competencies around food delivery - inclusive of presentation, packaging, operations and logistics - which allows us to deliver the best experience for diners, restaurants and couriers.

How do you ensure quality of the food when it’s being delivered through the Caviar courier service?

Adler: We only partner with couriers with thermal bags and the best equipment (like food separators, bikes with racks for pizza when applicable, etc.), work with our restaurant partners to use the best packaging for every type of food we deliver, and use smart algorithms to make sure the timing for each order is seamless and matches with the right courier. Our restaurant partnerships give us more data and information to learn from, and we’re always improving our algorithms with more inputs and variables that make them super accurate.

New life goal: Make sure #Fridays always taste this good 🍩

A post shared by Caviar (@trycaviar) on

Timing is a huge consideration when thinking of keeping food fresh and at the right temperature. The courier needs to arrive at the restaurant just as the restaurant finishes preparing the food, so it’s not waiting around on the counter, and the courier needs the right equipment and information to get the order to the diner fast.

What are all the services you provide to your restaurant partners?

Adler: We provide restaurants with an app to manage all their orders, pickup and delivery logistics such as matching couriers to deliver food, a range of marketing solutions, as well as consultation and expertise about their online menu and packaging. We also ship in-house [print] collateral to restaurants we work with to help educate their customers about all the ways they can order their favorite food. Some additional features include: pre-order for up to a week in advance, shared carts for large groups, and Caviar for Teams, a streamlined catering option. We do share high-level, anonymized data with our restaurants so they can better understand where their customers are ordering from, when they’re ordering, and what they’re ordering to make smarter business decisions.

How does the Caviar app for the back-of-house kitchen staff work?

Adler: Every restaurant can customize their app and experience for the kitchen staff to receive orders and to make sure that the process is optimized for their restaurant and operation. Each establishment has the option to integrate with kitchen printers directly so back-of-house staff can review orders as they come in, directly from the restaurant’s Caviar app.

Shake Shack: Where Are They Now?

Last week, news broke that Shake Shack CEO, Randy Garutti is joining the Board of Directors for mobile point-of -sale company, Square. Previously focused on credit card payments, Square is expanding into employee management software with an emphasis on retail and hospitality, making Garutti a great addition to its board.What makes Garutti an asset for Square’s new hospitality direction? Well, first of all, Garutti has been in the hospitality industry since he was 13 years old, serving up bagels at a shop in New Jersey. Since then, he’s done everything from waiting tables to traveling abroad and studying different food cultures. He has a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Cornell University. But perhaps what is most impressive is the fact that Union Square CEO, Danny Meyer gave Garutti his stamp of approval after only a 45-minute-long chat about Garutti’s passion for the industry.

"I saw a guy with more enthusiasm in his little finger than most people have in their entire body, and he was oozing love for the restaurant business, especially fine dining restaurants," Meyer told The Street.

Garutti worked his way up to Director of Operations for Union Square after only five years with the company. In 2001, he helped Meyer launch a hot dog cart in New York City as part of an art exhibit in attempts to help revitalize the area. The team had no idea that it would later become Shake Shack, a fast casual burger company with more than 130 locations worldwide.

So how did this billion-dollar burger empire grow? After a few years, the hot dog cart in Madison Square Park had become so popular that when the city began taking bids for a permanent kiosk-style restaurant within the park, Meyer immediately began sketching his idea for the space on a paper napkin (which Garutti still has to this day.) It was around this time Meyer asked Garutti to take over the new company as CEO so he could focus on other facets of Union Square Hospitality. The first official Shake Shack opened as a permanent establishment in Madison Square Park in 2004 and is now the most iconic location for the brand.

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Danny Meyer sketched out the idea for Shake Shack on a napkin

Shake Shack

Shake Shack

One ‘issue’ with the first location was the increasingly long lines. To combat that issue, the Shake Shack team decided to open a second location in the Upper West Side of New York City. Instead of shortening lines, the second location actually increased brand awareness causing lines lengths to continue growing.

Overall, Shake Shack shows a slow growth model. The brand opened its first location outside of New York City in Miami in 2010; six years after the first. The next year, it became an international brand with the opening of locations in Dubai and Kuwait. In January 2015, Shake Shack went public with its IPO priced at $21 per share with 63 locations. Trading began at $47 per share and hit a high of $92.86 per share in May of that same year.

Foodable spoke to Garutti back in 2014 when Shake Shack had less than 40 locations. Since then, the core brand hasn’t changed aside from its size. Their dedication to ‘good food’ rings true as they boast 100% all-natural, humanely-raised Angus beef, 100% all-natural cage-free chicken and crinkle-cut Yukon potatoes, with zero artificial ingredients.

In that 2014 interview, Garutti told us one thing that governs Shake Shack’s growth:

“If we’re not getting better here, we’re not allowed to keep opening elsewhere.”

Garutti’s hard line has brought a culture similar to that of a fine dining restaurant into the brand’s DNA. Shake Shack opened 26 new stores this year and though that may seem slow in comparison to fast casual restaurants like Mod Pizza or Freshii, it is in line with the Shakes slow growth strategy.

Square is the fastest growing POS system in food service. What are they planning for the future? Could they be aiming for the casual dining sector? At-table payments? These are some of the questions many industry professionals are asking themselves. One this is for sure, Garutti's experience in multiple guest-experience restaurants makes him uniquely positioned to help Square dominate the point-of-sale market.

Will Square Acquire Food Delivery Startup Caviar?

Caviar Catering | Credit: Caviar

Caviar Catering | Credit: Caviar

If the first two quarters are any indication, 2014 — aside from reservations — is the year of food (and alcohol) delivery. We are at the pinnacle of on-demand services. Or are we just getting started? It seems that investors are choosing the latter, and we couldn’t agree more. In recent news, Square is allegedly trying to eat up one of these startups themselves. It’s been recently rumored that the mobile payments company is in talks with Caviar to acquire them for around the $100 million ballpark. 

But with so many startups in the marketplace, why Caviar? What differentiates them from other food delivery services? Simple: an element of exclusivity, hence the brand’s name. Caviar strikes “exclusive delivery deals with high-quality restaurants, and also by offering a group-ordering feature so that customers can have their family and coworkers add their own meal selections simply by sharing a link.” Read More

Whole Foods Gets More Tech-Savvy with Square Stand POS

Photo Credit: GIGAOM

Photo Credit: GIGAOM

Technology is what keeps restaurants connected to guests, not only outside of the restaurant via social media channels, but in-store, as well, with updated POS systems, and tablets displaying menus, tableside ordering, and interactive components like games to entertain guests in order to fill wait times, just to name a few.

But it’s not just standard restaurants that are adapting to this plugged-in foodie culture. Whole Foods has recently started to integrate Square Stands, a sleek POS system, into various Whole Foods locations. Don’t worry – the new tech won’t replace cashiers. Because Whole Foods houses ready-to-eat foods that make for a good lunch spot, the new tech is more for on-the-go guests with few items. Read More