Press Coverage reprinted from The Record, Sunday, June 4, 2006
Holler when ready to order
Company helps restaurants do takeout online
By Dunstan Prial, Staff Writer
BigHoller founder G.R. Homa said the Internet company he helped create in 2004 was started as much to avoid laying off his employees as for any other reason.
From scratch, Homa, 42, and his partner, Michael Rosenzweig, 41, have built a company that now helps 400 restaurants process an average of 12,000 takeout and delivery orders each month through online technology developed by BigHoller.
Homa said he hopes to expand his list of clients to 5,000 by the end of next year.
Participants in the Internet boom of the late 1990s, Homa and Rosenzweig gave up their corporate technology jobs to start their own consulting firm called Datajump.
Things were rolling along and the future looked bright as the calendar turned to 2000. Datajump’s staff had climbed to about 70 and the company signed a new lease at a leafy corporate campus just off Route 80.
Then the technology stock bubble burst and there were far fewer Internet companies needing consultants. Datajump’s staff was cut to 20 and half the new office space had to be subleased in order to pay the rent.
“My partner and I hated letting people go,” Homa said in a recent interview. “These people were our friends and there was a lot of anguish.”
When the dust from the tech collapse had settled and the stock market regained its footing, the partners began brainstorming ideas for diversifying their company to protect against economic turbulence.
“We said let’s build something that hopefully during the next economic downturn will be recession-proof,” said Homa.
The upshot was BigHoller, which serves the virtually recession-proof restaurant business and is a separate, privately held entity from Datajump. The two companies, owned equally by Homa and Rosenzweig, now share a staff of about 55, comprising 15 full-time employees and 40 consultants.
BigHoller had 2005 revenues of about $200,000, and Datajump took in about $5 million.
Nearly half of all restaurants have a Web site where customers can look at a menu, Homa explained. But most of those restaurants coordinate takeout and delivery services either over the phone or via fax.
Homa said these methods are labor-intensive, as well as prone to error within a busy restaurant kitchen.
BigHoller seeks to streamline the process through proprietary software that interfaces with a restaurant’s Web site and allows customers to order food online. In some cases, BigHoller’s software allows customers’ orders to be placed directly into the same order processing system used by the restaurant’s waiters.
Although the online ordering area of a client restaurant’s Web site is operated by BigHoller, the graphics are designed to mimic those of the restaurant, so the process is seamless and the customer never knows his order has been redirected through BigHoller’s computer network in Parsippany.
Most of BigHoller’s clients are in North Jersey, including a Chinese restaurant called Chopstix in Teaneck, but the founders have their sights set on broader horizons.
For instance, the company is targeting large, national restaurant chains, several of which have recently begun offering takeout orders.
“We are aggressively pursuing large franchises,” said Homa, explaining that BigHoller’s software would merge well with most of the so-called points-of-sale computer systems used by large restaurant chains to input orders.
“We want to be the online ordering solution that everybody uses,” he added.
With that in mind, Homa said BigHoller’s software designers recently created a multilingual version to lure international customers, specifically a Chinese takeout chain of 150 restaurants operating in Brazil. But Homa said BigHoller also has set its sights on Canada, thus a French version is in the works.
Homa said he and Rosenzweig were able to create BigHoller two years ago keeping in mind the mistakes made by the Internet companies that failed when the Internet boom ended.
Many of those companies tried to do too much, Homa suggested. Not only were they creating Web sites where orders could be placed, they were also trying to provide the means of delivery, meaning they had to hire delivery people, buy cars and provide the insurance for those cars and deal with the logistics of that type of an operation.
That model is a far more costly endeavor, Homa concluded.
In addition, those early Internet companies had the misfortune of being showered with venture capital money by over-expectant investors. In many cases, funding quickly dried up when the companies couldn’t live up to investors’ lofty expectations.
Homa and Rosenzweig now consider themselves survivors of the go-go Internet craze, that much the wiser for having ridden the roller coaster of that tempestuous period.