Local tech startup QuickCue cooking with Craftworks

photo A group of Chattanooga-area developers say that Quickcue, which is now live on the Apple App store, turns long line from a frustration into an opportunity.

What is guest engagement?Guest engagement software kicks in the moment a guest makes reservations at a restaurant with their smartphone. Every interaction, from how long they have to wait to what they order for dessert can be tracked and recorded to form a guest profile.Upon their return, employees can "remember" a person's name and preferences, even rewarding them as a frequent diner with their favorite slice of pie.Priced at about a penny per customer, the software resides on special iPads in the restaurant, which are typically used my hostesses and managers.Restaurants Set to use QuickCue• Craftworks• Gordon Biersch• Rock Bottom• Old Chicago• Bluewater Grille• Big River Grille• Alleia• Blue Plate• Chato Brasserie• Chop House• El Meson Mexican Restaurant• Hennen's• Mellow Mushroom, Hamilton Place• Sticky Fingers, Hamilton Place• The TerminalSource: QuickCue, Craftworks Restaurants and Breweries

Chattanooga tech startup QuickCue is set to blaze a new trail as part of a deal with Craftworks Restaurants and Breweries.

The agreement breaks new ground in the relatively young guest engagement market, in which QuickCue officials say they've instantly become a national leader.

"It's the first big restaurant company that's entered into a business relationship with a guest engagement company," said investor Lex Tarumianz, who bankrolled the venture.

Craftworks has big plans for the software, which it will roll out to its restaurants in stages, said Rob Stickley, vice president of revenue for Craftworks.

"We will be able to tie in guest data in terms of what they like from a food and beverage offering, and the guest can participate in submitting their own data about elements of the dining experience that are important to them," Stickley said.

After Craftworks discovers their customers' favorite servers, food, beverages and seating areas, the software can theoretically seat patrons at their preferred table and have their favorite dish in the oven before they even get to the restaurant.

"It's an an experience that guests usually only associate with upscale dining, and it allows them to participate in tailoring the experience," Stickley said.

QuickCue, which was founded during Chattanooga's 48-hour launch incubator event, is the first of its class to hit it big.

"We want to be in the leadership position in this market, and if you want to be in a leadership position you can't play around," said Bo Ferger, president of QuickCue and a self-described serial entrepreneur. "It's a dynamite-looking product, and it works well."

The point of guest engagement is to give midrange restaurant customers the experience of luxury dining, Ferger said.

In a high-class restaurant, the well-paid maitre'd knows your name, where you like to sit, your favorite dish and your preferred server, the theory goes.

QuickCue accomplishes the same thing with an iPad.

"We know how long someone has to wait, we know where they sit, what they like to eat, and we've got a pretty good idea what they're about," Ferger said.

Restaurants can even set up rewards programs "like Amazon, where when you go there to shop, you get recommendations based on your shopping history."

QuickCue charges the restaurant about a penny per customer for the entire service, Ferger said.

That comes out to about $150 per restaurant per month.

"When we tell people that it only costs them a penny to get to know their guests, they're pretty excited," Ferger said. "We believe the data they get is worth more than a penny."

Sheldon Grizzle, air traffic controller at The Company Lab, called the deal a validation of both QuickCue and the Chattanooga model that spawned it.

The CoLab, as it is commonly known, nurtures entrepreneurs and connects them to investors or advisors through events like the 48-hour launch.

"This is a validation that what QuickCue is doing is good and needed in that industry, and for CoLab it's a validation that our events, our processes and our ability to connect people to the resources they need -- all that is on track and moving in the right direction," Grizzle said.

Jackson Alexander, director of Product for QuickCue, used lessons learned from waiting tables to design the software. In fact, he once worked for Gordon Biersch, a Craftworks brand.

"We wanted to keep the systems flexible to adapt, but still make it easy to use," Alexander said. "The hardest thing for us is to take a complicated process and make it simple."