T?buru - Taking Restaurant Orders from Fax to Tablet

Kirsty Styles

Many of us no doubt buy takeaways on mobile from our lean back position on the couch, but we probably don’t think much about how the order gets from us to them. Greg Ross-Munroe and his business partner, Leon Mcintosh, the guys behind the T?buru Android tablet restaurant ordering service, have found it’s often a lot more complicated, and inefficient, than you’d expect.

“Traditionally, and the method that is still used most, is the fax machine. Imagine what the heat in the kitchen can do to thermal printing,” said Greg Ross-Munroe, co-founder and CEO. “Lots of restaurants get it sent to an email inbox. Mostly onto a computer in the locked manager’s office. I’ve also seen a few that have an email account managed by a firm in India who then call the restaurant with the order. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that.”

T?buru is about to come out of beta and looks set to change the habits of a lifetime. The company’s initial offer helps restaurants take orders from mobile and online more easily. The team provides restaurants with an Android tablet and a monthly payment plan. The T?buru software integrates online and mobile orders via the restaurant's website - which they can build - then sends orders straight to the tablet for processing.

“Of course we chose Android because it was going to be less expensive. We got three tablets to test on for under $200," said Ross-Munroe. “But what was also important were the changes we can make to the operating system and, most importantly, the fact that we could build our own marketplace. This means it’s private and we can push updates whenever we need to. This is something that restaurants like and we can really leverage in the future – we can push whatever we want to those tablets,” he said.

Like any good start-up, they are testing and iterating – tweaking code whenever they need to. They have just added social media check-ins. One location is already using Foursquare to great effect and they will be adding Facebook over the next couple of weeks. Twitter will come later.

“Most of them don’t even have a Facebook page so we set that up for them. Then they have all Foursquare and Facebook activity on the device. We've spoken to social media experts who were  very excited about this.”

The potential for creating more efficient businesses, running deals and improving customer service, both virtually and face-to-face here is huge. The team has been approached companies working in payroll and staff time management who see the opportunity in having their software on board a tablet front-of-house.

“When we first set out, we were having a difficult time getting POS companies to integrate with our system – so we thought we’d build a tablet system that got around that,” he said. “Small businesses were getting charged huge amounts by the companies to integrate web order into their POS.
“We've been building our API  so we can now easily turn around custom apps in a few days.  We have also been approached by a number of developers who build loyalty and couponing apps specifically for restaurants. We can open up the API quickly and easily to add that in.”

SourceToad, the development house where the T?buru team works full-time, is still what pays the pair's mortgages. But Florida, where the company first won a start-up competition at the University of South Florida, and where it was then incubated in the Gazelle start-up programme, has more restaurants than anywhere else in the US, so is a great place for them to trial the packages before they roll out nationwide.

“I don’t want to say we’re breaking new ground or anything, but the latest innovation inside restaurants was digital menus about 15 years ago. Point-of-sale systems are really just digital cash registers. We do have an opportunity to change the way dining establishments interact with technology and customers.”