Meet the Team! Nathalie – Account Coordinator

Next up in our series of interviews with the Hazlnut team, we sat down with Nathalie, an Account Coordinator for Hazlnut:

Thanks for joining us, Nathalie.

It’s my pleasure!

To start off, tell us a little bit about your life and hobbies outside of Hazlnut.

Photography has been a major hobby of mine for as long as I can remember. Since I moved to Jacksonville from West Palm Beach, I’ve taken it a lot more seriously. I try to book photoshoots or take pictures of surfers whenever I’m free. Besides that, I love helping small businesses by creating logos and branding kits for them to take their business to the next level. Most of my free time ends up consumed by editing photos and brand assets on Lightroom and Photoshop.

I’ve also devoted a lot of my time to the Honor Flight Network. My high school history teacher asked me to join his volunteer club, and next thing I knew I was on a flight to Washington D.C. with 80 World War II veterans. Since then, I have helped organize local fundraising and volunteered at a wide array of events to support their cause. I highly recommend you research their mission at honorflight.org.

That’s really cool! You don’t really hear about people being involved in those types of causes while in high school. What were you doing between high school and working for Hazlnut?

I’ve always worked in the restaurant industry in some capacity. I’ve worn many hats: hostess, to-go specialist, server, captain, kitchen prep, delivery driver, and in the catering industry I’ve seen how much time and effort goes into being a manager/owner. 

Since I moved to Jacksonville, I took advantage of my school-to-work schedule ratio and made sure I gave myself enough time each week to travel. I’ve been lucky enough to visit several states and countries in such a short amount of time, not to mention all the local sightseeing around Florida. In May, I graduated with my Bachelor’s at the University of North Florida. I was working on 2 majors (Business Administration and Marketing & Logistics) and 1 minor (Digital Marketing & Analytics).

How did you start working for Hazlnut?

I got very lucky that a friend of mine worked at Hazlnut already. We studied at UNF and took several classes together, always teaming up for projects. We reached out to one another to catch up and eventually my plans for post-graduation came up. He recommended me for the job and the rest is history!

Awesome! I understand that customer service is a big part of your role as an Account Coordinator. Customer service is definitely a challenging area and takes a special kind of person to make it work. What’s been the most challenging part of your role at Hazlnut?

The sheer volume of it all! I love answering questions, working through feedback and concerns, and simply helping people in any way I can. What I didn’t know was just how often customer service and support is the primary point of contact. At first it was hard to navigate since I was still learning so much about Hazlnut, how to write SQL queries, and how to search through a large database for the specific information I needed. It’s funny because I’ve always heard the saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ but my first month at Hazlnut definitely opened my eyes to so much I didn’t know.

We all know that customer service can be stressful, but you make it look easy. How are you able to stay so motivated and passionate about the job?

There are a few mottos I like to live by, these have helped me stay altruistic and motivated even outside of work.

(1) “Do at least one thing every day to change at least one person’s life for the better” 

(2) “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” 

(3) “Good customer service is less time consuming than bad customer service”

(4) “Happy customers are your biggest advocates and can become your most successful sales team.” 

(5) “Above all else, what are you doing to make sure everyone around you is positively impacted by your acts?”

I handle the stress by reminding myself what it’s like to be on the other end. At the end of the day, the customer is just as stressed as I am. Remaining positive allows me to convert my stress to motivation, and channel my energy towards resolving customers’ concerns. It also helps to have such an incredible set of coworkers that I know I can depend on. If the workload catches up to me, or if I can’t figure out a resolution on my own, we have a team of highly skilled and generous individuals to lean on.

Thanks for sharing today, Nathalie! Just one more question before we go: You’ve said a lot of great things about Hazlnut, but what is your favorite thing about working for the company?

It sounds cheesy, but it really is the team. Dick & Steven have done a great job creating a workspace that is welcoming and supportive. Teamwork is essential, especially in a fast-growing business. Working at Hazlnut has allowed me to wear several hats, learning new skills along the way and I know I can always turn to my coworkers for help when I need it.

Since it’s still a relatively small-sized company, brainstorming leads to innovative ideas that are implemented without needing to jump through too many hoops. You really get a sense of ownership and can see the end-result of your hard work. They’ve created a great balance of a relaxed work environment without losing productivity. I’ve never been a part of a workplace culture quite like this one. 

Wishing you all the best going forward!

Meet the Team! BJ – Software Developer

Next up in our series of interviews with the Hazlnut team, we sat down with BJ, a software developer for the company:

Thanks for joining us, BJ.

It’s a pleasure to be here.

Before we get into your work life with Hazlnut, let’s learn a little about your personal life. What are your hobbies outside of work?

I’m a diehard Jacksonville Jaguars fan & ticket holder, a total nerd, and a gamer. I spend the majority of my non-work time on a computer either gaming, surfing the web, writing code (yep, in my free time), or just chatting with friends via Discord. If I’m awake and the Jags aren’t playing, you can probably find me at my PC.

Thanks for sharing! Most people probably don’t associate development and sports, but it shows you’re a well-rounded person. Now why don’t you tell us a about how and when you started working for Hazlnut.

I started working for Hazlnut as an intern in November 2018. Back then the company was just Dick and Steven, and they found me through a program at Florida State College at Jacksonville called I-Tech. The internship covered by the program was set to run for 9 weeks, but thankfully I was offered a full-time position before the end of that term.

That’s awesome! It’s really cool to see a temporary situation like that turn into a permanent job. What did you do before Hazlnut?

While I was in the I-Tech program, I landed a temporary position doing some quality assurance (QA) work for a database administrator who changed my life. I am so grateful to “Cap” because I gained valuable experience and skills while working for him, and the job, which was supposed to be a few days of QA, turned into months of me testing and helping to develop the workflow for their new system. Then, when I interviewed for the position at Hazlnut, he wrote me a fantastic letter of recommendation which I believe helped Dick and Steven make their decision to take a chance on the guy with no professional coding experience.

What made you get into software development?

My step-dad has always been into computers and technology so we’ve pretty much always had a computer in the house; and I quickly developed a passion for computers and figuring out how they worked. In middle school, I saved up enough money one summer to buy my own computer; that’s when the hobby really took off. I eventually found Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and started to learn how to write simple macros and custom scripts there. I realized that writing code is a lot like solving a puzzle; you know what the end result should look like, the challenge is putting the pieces together. You know that awesome feeling you get when you solve a difficult problem or finish a puzzle? I get that from my job.

I love that you’re so passionate about your job! I know “Development” can mean a lot of different things. What does your average day look like and what are your responsibilities?

Man, I feel like I don’t have an average day, and I think that’s cool. I am pretty much always writing code in multiple software languages either for exciting new features or to fortify current features. The reality of software development is that there will be bugs, so I spend time on some days looking into reported issues and fixing those. I also monitor the status of our clients throughout the day in order to alleviate the pain of service interruptions caused by things like internet outages at their location.

Very cool! It sounds like there’s a lot that you love about your job, but what would you say is your favorite thing about working for Hazlnut?

That I get to be a real part of what goes on here. I get to see my work put to use because what I do actually matters to the company. Also, there is a lot to be said about feeling valued by your employer, and I appreciate how valued I feel working at Hazlnut. I never leave work feeling like I wasted a day on a useless project or busy work.

Thanks so much for giving us some insight into Hazlnut today. Good luck to everyone on the team going forward!

Meet the Team! Dick Sikes – CEO

We recently sat down with Dick Sikes, CEO and Co-Founder of Hazlnut:

Thanks for joining us, Dick.

Thanks for having me.

We’re looking forward to learning a little bit about Hazlnut. For those who aren’t really familiar with the business, tell us a little bit about what you guys do.

We build high quality online and mobile ordering solutions to help smaller restaurants compete with bigger brands. I’ve said it so much now it almost sounds cliché but it’s really our ethos. We’re constantly looking at the latest and greatest features on the market and in the best apps (Starbucks & Chick-fil-a for example) and thinking, “How can we make something like this work for our customers?”

As I’m sure you’re aware, you’re in a pretty competitive market. What makes Hazlnut stand out from the competition?

Our passion for what we do and our commitment to quality. All of our apps are native and full featured. We don’t just build a shell of an app that points to your online ordering page and I think the app store ratings reflect that. I was just looking at the Larry’s Giant Subs iOS app the other day and it had a ton of ratings and 4.9 stars on average. People have been really receptive to the quality we’re putting out there.

What’s become more and more evident lately is our service is a core element of our offering. I think people like the fact that they can call our number and get a hold of someone right away who knows what they’re talking about. That doesn’t happen much anymore in this day and age.

That’s awesome. It sounds like you have a hand in multiple areas of the business. What exactly is your role at Hazlnut?

My title at Hazlnut is CEO but of course in a start-up we all wear many hats, this was especially true early on. In the early stages, my co-founder Steven and I would act as development, sales, marketing… a little bit of everything. Luckily as we’ve grown as a company we have more qualified people filling a lot of those roles. And although I still do some development (mostly for iOS) I’d say my primary roles could be classified as Business Development and Strategy and Accounting and Finance. With our co-founder, Steven Edwards, in Operations this plays well to both of our strengths. He’s keeping the trains running on time and I’m expanding the routes and making sure we’re getting paid on each trip.

So how did you guys come up with the name Hazlnut?

I really wish there was a better story here but it just kind of came about. At the time we were called Gonogo but we couldn’t get the domain name or consistent social media handles. Also, SEO was impossible because it’s kind of a common phrase (a “go, no-go” decision) so no one could find us online. We knew we needed to change names.

We wanted something that represented the restaurant industry since that was the core segment we’re serving so Hazlnut kind of works there since it’s a common flavor, but also it was vague enough to work as a software company name to keep us flexible. In the same vein of “what does Apple have to do with computers?” Plus, we got a cool mascot out of it. Everyone likes squirrels, right?!

Of course! Now that we have a little insight into the company, why don’t you tell us about what you did prior to starting Hazlnut?

I worked in capital markets for a bank and I loved it there. Early in my career I worked very hard to earn my CFA charter and being an Analyst at a bank was exactly what I wanted to do. In a lot of ways that job shaped who I am, and how I think and approach things. 

As I much as I loved it, there was still something nagging at me to strike out on my own. And working in that role I started getting more and more into programming, first with macros in excel and then some other various business intelligence tools. So I really started developing a passion for software development and knew if I was going to do something entrepreneurial, that’s what it was going to be.

So what would you say to someone who’s unhappy with their corporate job but is too scared to take a leap into starting a business?

First, I’d say you shouldn’t really approach going into business for yourself as an escape from a job you hate. I think what you’re going into needs to be a passion for you or you won’t succeed.

Secondly, I’d say you need to get into a mentality of starting. It’s too easy to just think about something and never start, or to continue iterating and iterating to make your product or service perfect before you release it. I’ve seen it happen way too many times and have been guilty of it myself. PS27 Ventures, the VC group that invested in us has a motto, “Think Big, Start Small”. I love that, but I’d even amend it to just “Think Big, Start” because that’s the hardest part. Get something out there, fall on your face but learn from your mistakes and keep going. We’ve really bought into a mentality of “1.0, 2.0” here. Just get out a version 1.0 first and you can always work your 2.0 along the way.

Reid Hoffman has a great quote about this, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Also, I was extremely lucky to partner with my childhood friend Steven Edwards in this case. He’s a doer, so it made for a really good combo with us teaming up. I know advice on working with a friend is probably 50/50 out there, but I wouldn’t do it any other way.

It definitely sounds like you’re passionate about the company. Was there a specific role model in your life who helped transform this passion into a successful business?

There’s not a single role model, but multiple role models for different reasons. There’s a family friend who is a very successful business owner here in town, Greg Matovina, that I meet with regularly to catch up with and get advice. Jim Stallings and all of the advisors at PS27 Ventures who have been invaluable through the whole entrepreneurial process. And all the way back to high school I had an amazing teacher named Mr. Clark who ignited a lifelong passion of learning within me. As a side note, I also really enjoyed reading the Steve Jobs biography and loved learning about his view on products and marketing, definitely wouldn’t want to model his interpersonal skills though!

I know COVID-19 has definitely had an impact on decisions to start new businesses. How has the pandemic affect Hazlnut?

It’s been mixed. First off, it’s hard to be happy about any positive impacts it’s had on the business when it’s devastated so many lives. It’s a really weird feeling. Overall for the most part, right now, it appears to have been very positive. A lot of restaurants have been needing online and mobile ordering as dining rooms have been closed and people are practicing social distancing. 

The reason I say it’s been mixed though is to help restaurants get something up and running, we’ve reduced pricing on a lot of our services. All this has worked to shift our product mix entirely. Whereas now we’ve got a lot of new customers going with our online ordering only product which is not our core product (mobile apps) and affects things from a profitability and servicing standpoint. We’re seeing more attrition as restaurants close their doors, sometimes for good, unfortunately. We have concerns about what things will look like as this pandemic lingers on and government stimulus runs out.  So regardless of any short-term economic benefits, like everyone else, we’re hoping for this to be over very soon.

I think we’re all in agreement there. It’s been a strange time for everyone.

Well, we’re out of time today, but just one more question: Any exciting things on the horizon that you can share with us?

So many things. We have some really ambitious projects lined up for the remainder of 2020 into 2021. Mainly looking to expand our integrations to additional point of sales as well as coming out with kiosks which we’re really looking forward to. Also, some BIG things in the pipeline in terms of AI and machine learning that we’re really buzzing about internally, but I’ll keep it quiet for now. But we feel we’ve got some things in the works that could change the industry. I’ll leave it at that for now!

Thanks for your time today, Dick. Best of luck to everyone on the Hazlnut team!

The Future of Mobile Ordering for Small Business Owners

Boost Your Business with Mobile Ordering

It’s no secret: starting your own small business takes a lot of bravado. Small business owners are the visionaries – the hard-working risk-takers that are willing to do what it takes to transform their passion into a paycheck. Part of being a successful business owner is staying open-minded and keeping up with the latest trends to satisfy customers’ needs. In a world where consumers have become accustomed to instant gratification and ease-of-use in ordering online, food ordering apps for restaurants are quickly becoming a new consumer standard. 

We Want it Now: Meeting a Growing Demand in a Millennial Market

food ordering apps for restaurants

As consumers become more familiar with online ordering in both retail and culinary trends, food ordering apps for restaurants are quickly becoming the new standard. Business Insider Intelligence Reports find that orders placed by smartphone and mobile apps will become a $38 billion industry by 2020. In just two years, it is projected that these orders will comprise 11 percent of all quick-service restaurants sales.

Now more than ever, millennials are enjoying their meals from home. In fact, when millennials order from restaurants, they’re dining in just 42 percent of what they used to. Data show that millennials are utilizing takeout services 40 percent of the time, and delivery 19 percent of the time, according to a recent study performed by Restaurant Business. As a small business, it is essential to target this growing demographic of diners who seek convenience and quality. 

Branding Wins Big on Mobile

By creating a recognizable, branded ordering app for your business, you are able to insert yourself right where young consumers spend their time: on their mobile phones. The busy modern consumer demands streamlined purchasing, the ability to shop without long lines and an efficient purchasing experience. Food ordering is no different.

By developing a food ordering app for your restaurant, you will require fewer staff to take payment and fill orders. The use of an app can also work to limit long lines and wait times, meaning that you can service more customers per hour and increase your revenue

 

Create Loyalty 

customer loyalty

Not only does the use of a mobile ordering app increase efficiency and productivity, it provides business owners with the ability to connect with their consumers on an intimate level. Loyalty programs can be attached to your ordering app to increase engagement with existing customers, strengthening the bond between business and consumer.

Hazlnut works to create systems that feature the branding elements that attracted your consumers in the first place. These systems work seamlessly with PoS systems like Clover, to allow for mobile ordering while increasing loyalty and providing marketing opportunities.

When creating your unique ordering app with Hazlnut, it’s important to consider your brand’s goals and to tailor your loyalty program accordingly. Thinking about what action you would like your consumers to take will work to promote behaviors that are right for your business. Creating a loyalty system that’s in-brand and features rewards and instructions that are simple and easy to understand will be the most enticing to consumers.  

Ready to take your business to the next level? Schedule a demo today

Are You Being Left Behind?

Are You Being Left Behind?

Top 5 Reasons Restaurants Need a Mobile Ordering App

As technology keeps improving and becomes increasingly more ubiquitous, restaurants are turning more frequently to mobile applications (iOS and Android) to enhance the customer experience. Restaurants are creating mobile apps that track loyalty and make menus available.

According to a recent statistic from the Pew Research Center, 40% of U.S. adults have ordered food online. This trend is projected to go even higher in the near future. By 2020, 70% of all foot traffic will be outside of the restaurant. That’s a staggering number.

As technology becomes more powerful, the cost for small businesses to adopt such technologies is becoming increasingly less expensive. Restaurant owners can (now more than ever) take advantage of mobile trends to increase revenues and improve the customer experience.

If that isn’t enough to decide if mobile ordering makes sense, here are a few more reasons to consider:

1. Improved customer experience

With a mobile ordering app, customers have the flexibility to order when they want and where they want. This leads to shorter lines and improves efficiency with the customer buying cycle. Employees will spend less time on the phone taking orders and more time with guests dining in the restaurant.

2. Larger average check size

When customers place orders through their phones, check sizes increase 23% on average compared to their in-store counterparts. Why is this? Seeing a menu in digital form is a lot easier to digest. Not only this the ordering process is much smoother and flows in a much more natural progression. One of the main reasons check sizes are larger, on average, is because ordering apps never forget to upsell the customer. Maybe they wanted that guacamole after all!

3. Increased take-out revenue

Not only are check sizes increasing, but take-out revenue grows on average by 30%. Some restaurants have even seen their take-out revenues double.

4. Customers are connected now more than ever

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 8 out of 10 Americans shop online on the web or through their smartphone. In addition, 51% shop exclusively on their phones. This number is only projected to increase as customers become more connected.

5. Improves the ordering process and reduces mistakes

Also, the ability to see and build orders in a mobile app also helps reduce human errors. This in turn increases order accuracy and improves the customers overall satisfaction.