Anthony Pigliacampo is the co-founder and co-CEO of Modern Market Eatery, a fast-casual dining concept that “has perfected processes to make scratch cooking fast, repeatable and profitable.” Founded in 2009 in Denver, Colorado, the company has nearly 30 restaurants operating in various markets and formats with eight consecutive quarters of positive comp growth. According to the company, franchise partners “benefit from training programs, site selection support, innovative chef-driven menus, technology integrations and strong field and marketing support.” A mechanical engineer by training, Anthony started his career as a product designer at IDEO, a globally renowned design and innovation consultancy, working for clients including Pepsi, P&G, Eli Lilly, Nike, McDonald’s, and Novartis. Because of his job, Anthony traveled often and found himself eating unhealthy food that he would not otherwise eat, thus he took matters into his own hands and created Modern Market Eatery.
“Our competitive unit economics are achieved by leveraging innovative technology including custom online ordering and in-store systems that make it easy for our off-premise and dine-in guests alike to eat well and be happy—wherever they are,” notes the company website. “We have a tech stack on par with the most sophisticated retailers and are miles ahead of the largest restaurant brands.” We asked Anthony about the role technology plays in his business and its continued success, even in the midst of a pandemic that has created unprecedented challenges in the industry.
What sets Modern Market Eatery apart in the healthy fast casual food segment?
Everything on Modern Market’s menu is made from scratch and the ingredients used are clean, sustainable and ethically raised. While our food-forward concept may seem typical on a micro-level, we not only made this model consistent and repeatable, but profitable at scale. In addition to our food being healthy, nutritious, and high-quality, Modern Market’s menu is also reasonably priced. The prices are in relatively close comparison to QSR restaurants, but with an FSR feel. Thus, we consider ourselves a pioneer of the fast-fine movement before it was even a thing.
Now, more than ever it is important for food to look as good as it tastes and vice-versa. In the world of social media, everyone is sharing everything, especially what they are eating. Our food tastes as instagramable as it looks. And possibly one of the most important advantages about Modern Market Eatery is the innovative, proprietary technology our brand has developed from the ground up. Our unique technology and back office systems fully support our sustainable supply chain and culinary-forward and digital-first operating model.
How do the technologies that Modern Market uses today benefit both franchisees and customers?
We have created systems to help corporate and franchised locations compete in this new world order with a digital-first company perspective. Modern Market has seamlessly integrated in-store digital, contactless ordering. This comes as an evolution of our proprietary curbside ordering capabilities built as a result of the pandemic. Tableside ordering enables our guests to place orders from the table using their phone by scanning a QR code. They do not need to go up to a register, provide personal information or even download an app to order; and the menu is still fully customizable and easy to use.
We also recently introduced a new and updated app/rewards system to our guests. The new app enables delivery directly in the app versus being sent to a website landing page to place an order. We also offer third party delivery through direct integration with all major third-party delivery providers.
I am equally excited about our capability to enable a user who clicks on a digital ad for a specific menu item to instantly place that item in their cart to order with just one additional click. This has significantly increased our ad performance and customer conversions while driving a superior user experience.
Any other benefits you’ve seen with respect to these technologies?
From a customer standpoint, we have seen a meaningful increase in online ordering. Pre-pandemic, we saw more than half of our sales come from digital orders. As of August 2020, nearly 80% of our orders originated through a digital platform.
From an operations perspective, the implementation of these new platforms and capabilities have not only increased sales, it has also increased the fluidity between the front of house and back of house operations. The kitchen and dining room designs are set up to make delivery, catering, and pickup simple and easy to execute.
Our technology makes it a seamless process for operators to fulfill orders from digital channels as easy as if the order was taken in-restaurant. Our unique, digital-first, ecommerce platform, is built using Facebook React, which drives a highly customizable experience expected from ecommerce-driven organizations such as Uber and Netflix. We feel that this positions us to capitalize on the increased off-premise activity with a superior customer experience even once dine-in traffic returns to pre-pandemic levels.