Dallas-based OOMI Digital Kitchen is the next Food On Demand Outstanding Operator.
Seas have been choppy for most players in the multi-brand, delivery-only kitchen space, but one independent operator in the Dallas metro is breaking the mold with raving fans, exceptional reviews and retention rates that are the envy of any brand regardless of format.
FOD has previously written about this nondescript operation surrounded by apartments on the edge of downtown. Preferring to label the business an evolved ghost kitchen or delivery kitchen, rather than a ghost kitchen, OOMI is finding enduring success as it heads into its second year in business.
Co-founder Markus Pineyro said the biggest recent change has come from moving beyond outside, licensed brands and instead focusing entirely on in-house brands he and his team have created for its customers–all based on detailed ordering data and feedback from its customers, as well as many ingredients already in its 2,000 square-foot facility.
Crossing the 12-month mark, Pineyro said he focuses more on month-over-month or week-over-week comparisons to gauge the overall performance of the business.
With some experience under his belt, OOMI is finding that its retention rate is much higher than a traditional restaurant, which he said outlines the quality of the food and the execution of its staff. That ensemble performance has led to a 4.9 rating on Google, with customers citing the diversity of preferences that can accommodate meat eaters and vegan diners, as well as the preparation and packaging of the meals that raises the bar for all foodservice operations with a delivery component.
Decluttering the operation
Back in August, OOMI switched over to the Empower Delivery software platform that was recently spun off from Indianapolis-based ClusterTruck, which might be the closest peer for the delivery kitchen anywhere in the United States.
“It revolves around our communication with our customers and how we capture every sale through a digital transaction,” Pineyro said of Empower and only using first-party ordering and fulfillment channels. “We have the ability to reconnect, follow up and remarket to that customer because we own the customer at that point.”
While nearly every restaurant has gotten the message about the importance of capturing customer data, OOMI has taken the practice much further than most by using customer data and real-time feedback to fine-tune operations, identify key weaknesses between the kitchen and the customer’s location, and to refine existing brands and create new ones to satisfy unmet customer demands.
Every customer who places their first OOMI order gets a personal email from Pineyro asking them about the experience. In the rare case where somebody wasn’t satisfied, he and his team can address store-level issues with the food, track the performance of delivery drivers and then follow back up with the customer asking them to order again.
“If we’re getting consistent feedback about something positive, then I know that our customers really like it and then we know what people like and what people are reordering, so we can push into that strength,” he added. “The people that do complain or send me feedback, I make them secret shoppers.”
In those instances, customers receive two separate promo codes to order from OOMI again, then asking them afterward what they thought about the changes.
Asked what it’s like to be involved with so much guest feedback, even when he’s off the clock at home, Pineyro said it’s oddly very enjoyable. He likened the task to doing table touches in a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“I can sit at my home office and watch every single order, every single ticket, expo times…the entire process,” he said. “I can see the temperature of the kitchen, how we’re performing and if we’re falling behind, so that mission control of the Empower platform is critical for any operator to understand the internals of their kitchen.”
One such result involved doubling down on the success of OOMI’s Urban Taco concept, its best-selling in-house brand. Love Bowls uses some existing ingredients, expanding the existing cuisine category and finding particular success as a lunchtime option. Similarly, branching out beyond its Clucky’s wing brand was the catalyst for a new fried chicken concept that replaced a previous licensed concept.
Providing the backbone
Talking in the wake of turmoil at Kitchen United and CloudKitchens, Pineyro said he could easily expound on plans to open additional locations in new markets, but stressed that’s not where he’s at 12 months into operations.
“We want to become a staple in our backyard, we want to dominate the backyard, and once we do that, then we can go and open in a different market,” he said. “We believe in having a system that works internally…because we can reduce labor, we can do smaller footprints, and can open within four or five miles from each other and still have a web over the city.”
Stressing that he doesn’t view OOMI as a traditional ghost kitchen, he said investors in the foodservice space want to see an option that works and can be replicated.
“If the numbers work, then it’s an investment,” he added. “You just have to prove yourself as a concept. And, again, whether you’re brick and mortar, free cash flow, full service, if it works it works. No matter what type of concept it is, if you can make it work, then it’s an attractive investment.”
Getting back to the almost entirely positive customer reviews, Pineyro said he can only recall a single one-star rating that centered around confusing redeeming a promo code.
“Besides that, knock on wood, it’s almost weird that we haven’t had any negative reviews,” he said. “”It just speaks volumes of the kitchen and the team, so that’s all on them. They’re the ones making the food and we’re just providing them the backbone to operate.”
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