It's certainly Waitr's game to lose in the particular small-market segment that it serves. But as it branches out from its core business, it's going to take a ton of time and investment to be a best-in-class service for not just delivery, but loyalty programs and point-of-sale systems and reservations as well.
— Erika Adams
In the digital revolution that is currently sweeping through the restaurant industry, the independent restaurants are the ones getting kicked around the most.
Single unit or small multi-unit operators don’t have the advantage of scale to leverage better deals from any tech partner, delivery or otherwise. And on the tech side, the top vendors generally aren’t courting them either, because the real money to be made is with the nationwide chain restaurants.
Waitr, a newly-public food delivery service and online marketplace based in Lafayette, Louisiana, is aiming squarely for those independent restaurant clients. In its first quarterly earnings report since going public and acquiring direct competitor Bite Squad, the company laid out plans for future growth and — like Grubhub and others — food delivery is only one piece of the pie that Waitr wants to own.
“When we look at opportunities that lie ahead, one can only imagine the possibilities,” Waitr CEO Christopher Meaux said on the company’s earnings call. “Restaurants are scrambling to chart their path in this changing industry, and it is especially relevant when we look at independent operators of single unit or small chain restaurants in the markets we serve.”
Meaux laid out five main digital components that the company is looking to eventually cover for its restaurants. There’s the delivery service provider (which is Waitr’s core business), but there’s also the payment processor for in-restaurant credit card transactions, a loyalty program provider, a table management platform for reservations and waitlisting, and a point-of-sale provider. Waitr wants to be a one-stop shop for independent restaurants in all five of those areas.
“When we look at the future of these independent restaurants, it’s not hard to see the opportunity for most, if not all, of these services to be provided by a single vertically integrated platform,” Meaux said. “With a tablet in every restaurant, a team on the ground in most markets and the convergence of these services already beginning, it isn’t hard to see how Waitr and Bite Squad are well positioned to lead the future of this evolution.”
Growth In Every Market
Waitr reported overall revenue growth of 202 percent to $69.3 million in 2018, compared to $22.9 million in total revenue in 2017. The company projects to earn approximately $250 million in total revenue in 2019, thanks in large part to the Bite Squad acquisition, which roughly doubled the company’s total size in footprint and sales.
When asked whether sales growth had slowed in Waitr’s most mature markets, Meaux said that the company was still seeing “double-digit” sales growth in its oldest markets.
“I think that’s a testament to the continuation of diners moving from telephone or kind of legacy ways of ordering to online ordering,” Meaux said. “We expect that it’s going to continue throughout the year, and the bulk of our growth is going to be driven through those existing markets and the depth of penetration in those markets, including the very first markets that we launched.”
Waitr has approximately 1 million active diners on its platform, and roughly another 1 million active diners on Bite Squad’s platform. The company will continue to operate the two brands separately for the foreseeable future, but the possibility for consolidation isn’t totally off the table. “Over time, we’ll consider whether it makes sense to move to a single brand,” Meaux noted.