OrderNerd co-founders Stephen Gladney and Justin Barber were eating at a restaurant a few years ago and noticed the establishment had four different tablets, one for each third-party delivery service. The process was awkward and cumbersome.
They talked about the problem and decided that integrating all the order information into one platform would help restaurants. OrderNerd was born.
“Justin has like 20 years of experience in building integrations,” Gladney said. “And he was like, ‘I can solve that.’”
Gladney and Barber both worked at Scoutmob, an Atlanta-based startup similar to Groupon. It offered deals to consumers from restaurants and other businesses. They had been bouncing around different ideas for a side project and settled on third-party integration of delivery apps.
The journey for Gladney to tech entrepreneur was long and winding, however. He worked in sales early in his career but eventually caught the bug to code, figuring that building something would be more interesting than selling.
“I decided that I wanted to become a software developer, because I taught myself to code when I was like 14 years old but never really pursued it,” Gladney said. “I then started working at tech companies, and I saw coders building things. And I was like, ‘I remember doing it when I was a kid. I wish I could do that again.’ So I began doing coding bootcamps at night. I then made the switch from sales guy to software engineer, which is, like, a huge leap to make.”
When Gladney moved into software engineering, he met Barber. They found some mutual interests and learned that their talents blended well together.
“Justin was a senior-level software architect, and he had a side hustle at the time – a CRM for multi-level marketers,” Gladney said. “I had a sales background. So, we formed this sort of mutual mentorship. We would get together on Thursday nights and through that relationship, we discovered that we both were kind of aspiring entrepreneurs.”
They thought about building something together and tossed around several ideas. Then, they struck on the idea of an app to help restaurants integrate ordering through multiple delivery platforms. They did research and spoke with restaurant owners. They wanted to learn about the challenges with delivery and any potential solutions. The restaurants said that the multiple tablets were a problem.
Developing the product
They started to build a solution, and by the middle of 2019, they had developed a prototype. They found ways to pull the necessary information out of DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and the other delivery marketplaces. In some cases, that was easy. Some were more challenging than others, but the innovative founders developed solutions.
In October, they placed the platform in a restaurant. Instead of two or three different tablets, the restaurant received all the orders on one tablet. That made it easy for the restaurant to process the orders. They worked on the bugs with the system and fully developed the platform. The feedback was positive. The restaurant was pleased with the way the system helped improve the operation.
“They were like, ‘This is the greatest thing we’ve ever had in this restaurant,’” Gladney said. “And so we knew from that response that we had something. So we began selling it in December of 2019. We got our first customer on December twenty-third, two days before Christmas. We got into about 20 or 30 restaurants locally just cold calling and knocking on doors.”
The system moved the orders directly into the kitchen and printed off tickets. It made the overall operation easier and streamlined kitchen processes.
“We had one of our customers that was literally, I kid you not, they were handwriting orders,” Gladney said. “Every time a DoorDash or Postmates or Uber Eats order came in they wrote it down. And they were doing close to one hundred orders a day.”
Just as the company was starting to get traction, COVID struck and restaurants were hit hard. Restaurant owners tried to find ways to keep the doors open. Gladney and his partner approached their clients and told them that they would stop charging a monthly fee.
“I don’t want to lose the customers, right? – and I felt that, I mean, this was still a side hustle for Justin and me at the time,” Gladney said. “We had day jobs, still, with salaries, and we didn’t need the money. And it was more important that the restaurant staff be getting paid than us making 75 bucks a month. So we just stopped charging for it. We did that for three months. And then around August of last year, our customers came to us and said, ‘Hey, we’re OK now. You can begin charging us again.’”
Expanding into other markets
By late last year, the business started to grow again. The founders eventually quit their full-time jobs and jumped into OrderNerd full-time. They also added a third founder, Marco Dell’Olio, and were invited to the Atlanta-based incubator Techstars.
They now have over 100 restaurants using the platform in seven states. They are also in the process of building the second generation of the platform, allowing integration of food delivery orders into POS system.
“We’ve built Revel and we’ve built Clover,” he said. “We’re just now finishing Square.”
Overall, OrderNerd sees itself as a company that can help restaurants understand technology. Gladney said most have a limited understanding of technology, and his company can help them understand the entire tech stack within a restaurant. Most restaurants were forced into online ordering and delivery but do not really have any expertise in that area.
“The reason that we named the company OrderNerd is that the mission behind the company is that the restaurateurs, in particular, have sort of almost been left behind, or they’ve been dragged along into technology,” Gladney said. “The same thing happened with Groupon. It’s happening now with your delivery app. They’re just getting pulled along, and they don’t understand how all this stuff works, nor do they have time to. What they need is a partner or an ally who can be their nerds. You could call it geek squad for restaurants.”
Restaurants need to focus on the food and customer service, not the technology, he said.
“They should be focused on providing great food experiences to people, which is why they got in the business in the first place. And if we can use our technical skills to help enable them to be more successful, then that’s what I wanted to do,” Gladney said.
He also believes there are huge opportunities helping restaurants understand the data connected to their orders.
“I just think, like, there’s so much data now that we have about consumers and what they’re doing and what they’re ordering, that restaurants will have a really cool ability to personalize experiences,” Gladney said.
The company has not taken any funding yet, because the founders are not in a hurry. They want to slowly develop a product and understand the customer’s needs.
“I want to stay in touch with customers,” Gladney said. “I try to do at least two customer interviews every single week.”