Wichita, KS – Almost every week, 1 Million Cups Wichita hosts a networking, presentation, and discussion event focused on local entrepreneurship. With the recent release of Nigel’s go-to-market MVP product, 1 Million Cups invited leaders from the Nigel team to present on the product’s development process and future plans.
About 1 Million Cups
Each week, 1 Million Cups Wichita combines, “coffee, conversation, and entrepreneurs” to discuss what’s “brewing in Wichita.” Each presentation lasts approximately six minutes, followed by a question and answer session, ending with the question, “What can the Wichita community do to help?”
Telling the Nigel Story
Jon Rolph, President and CEO of Thrive Restaurant Group, kicked off the presentation by discussing how Nigel and the partnership between Thrive and High Touch Technologies originated. Talking from his personal experience as a restauranteur, Rolph discussed many of the restaurant industries’ pain points with a focus on the point of sale (POS) systems previously available on the market.
“I’ve heard entrepreneurs oftentimes ask themselves this question, ‘Is there a gap in the marketplace that I need answered? Then, maybe we can come up with that answer for ourselves,’” states Rolph. “So, I went to Wayne Chambers, former President and CEO of High Touch Technologies…and sat down and said, ‘we see this gap in the restaurant space, would you want to partner with us?’”
Very quickly, the team created a 50/50 joint venture, created a prototype, and began testing the software in the Thrive-owned restaurant Homegrown Wichita.
After discussing Nigel’s origin, Rolph handed the microphone off to Jason Mock, Senior Vice President of Software Solutions at High Touch. Mock explained to the audience how the team researched and discovered the restaurant industry’s pain points that they could solve with a new POS system. He discussed how the team combined Thrive’s restaurant knowhow with High Touch’s technology experience and market research to build Nigel.
The team found that most restaurants had to combine products from 8-10 vendors with their current restaurant POS systems. Moreover, the team discovered that POS system pricing was unfair to restauranteurs. As a game changer, High Touch could apply the same pricing model to Nigel that it had success with in the rent-to-own industry
Finally, Mock discussed the importance of customer support in Nigel’s plan. With Nigel, the team knew having 24/7, U.S.-based support was important to customers in the restaurant space.
Gregg Bolinger, Director of Development for Nigel at High Touch, illustrated how the joint venture moved from a prototype to a functioning minimal viable product (MVP). Bolinger also showed how Homegrown Wichita has served as the test kitchen for Nigel. Once things were moving smoothly at Homegrown, Bolinger explained how Nigel was gradually rolled out to multiple Thrive-owned Carlos O’Kelly’s locations before it was integrated into the recently opened Molino’s Taqueria.
Finally, in May 2019, the go-to-market MVP of Nigel was ready for sale.
Question and Answer Session
After discussing what Nigel’s ideal customer looked like, the team opened up the presentation to members of the audience. We have paraphrased these questions and answers from the original dialogue. Watch the complete question and answer session, beginning at approximately 13:30.
How do you go about building relationships with restaurants and selling Nigel? What does that conversation look like? How do you explain your process?
Rolph: We talk to many different restaurant concepts. We open the conversation with questions like, “What are your needs right now? What are your pain points?” In order have a good partnership, you need to understand what the other party’s needs are, and make sure you’re a good solution. Then, we can talk about what we can do for them. As restauranteurs ourselves, we’re able to relate. We can sit down and speak the language. We’re able to share our own data and numbers to show how we can help.
Jon, you’ll be offering this system to potential Thrive Restaurant Group competitors. What if your competitors’ sales skyrocket using your system? What does that look like for you and your business?
Rolph: I have a soft spot for the restaurant space. Our idea was that we wanted to improve the restaurant space. The national economy is doing great, but the restaurant industry isn’t. Labor costs are outpacing food costs. We needed to find a new way to service guests—one way of doing that is using technology. We want to add value to the space. There are so many other characteristics in the restaurant space to differentiate yourself amongst competitors. It’s not necessarily about the technology you use.
Can we talk about training in the restaurant industry and how Nigel fits in?
Rolph: Nigel has cut back on our training. Actually, it’s allowed us to shift our training time from spending a whole day on showing employees how to use the POS to having a half day on the POS, then focusing more on customer interaction for the remaining half.
How does Nigel interact with restaurant suppliers?
Mock: We’re integrated with Rosnet, which handles the supplier and inventory management piece. Other software providers on the market provide similar integration pieces as well.
Rolph: We’ve built this thing on a modern architecture that’s all about integration and open APIs. For instance, Oracle is one of the biggest players out there. Their point of sale system isn’t open source and it’s difficult for anyone who’s trying to integrate with different partners.
Does Nigel store any proprietary information? What is your pricing model?
Bolinger: In terms of proprietary data, we do have credit card integration, but we’re doing it in a way where the integration handles all the PCI compliance on the credit card side of things. Nigel doesn’t store anything in terms of PCI compliance. We have one piece of personal identification information, which is encrypted and securely stored. If someone were to hack Nigel, all they would see is that someone ordered a build-your-own-breakfast.
Rolph: From a hardware standpoint, we offer business-class hardware that can be used, or you can bring your own hardware. We’re not focused on proprietary hardware.
Mock: The software is a licensed model. We’re in the process of finalizing the pricing structure.
Are you planning on making Nigel available on the international market?
Bolinger: We architected the system in a way that supports multiple languages, so absolutely we can take it that route.
Rolph: High Touch has experience dealing with software on an international scale in the rent to own space.
What is your 3-5 year business plan?
Rolph: We’ve kept our startup costs fairly low through our joint venture, so we’re not pressed to rush ourselves out there. We’re hoping to experience steady growth, which will continue when we get out there, get more restaurants on board, and add more features.
What can the Wichita community do for Nigel?
Rolph: Help us find talent. We’re wanting this community to become more of a tech hub. We’re looking for people to help us code the software. This is cutting-edge stuff. Secondly, we’d love to, as we launch this thing, see it all over the Wichita area, and really watch Wichita develop as a hub for restaurant technology.
Curious and Want to Learn More About Nigel?
We’re looking to forward to everything Nigel can do to improve the customer experience in the restaurant industry.How Can I Get Nigel in My Restaurant?