If you walk down into the heart of San Antonio, TX, you’ll find a long stretch of green lawn with diners and smiling vendors dotting the winding lanes. This isn’t the start to a fantasy novel: these are where the Pearl Food Hall Plazamakers do their work.
The “Plazamakers” are the staff at Pearl who work tirelessly to curate a wonderful experience, environment, and community for their town. They’re the ones who ask you how you’re doing when you’re down, who are thrilled to escort you to the exact restaurant you’ve been craving but didn’t know was there; they’re the runners, cooks, business owners, and curators who make the food hall tick.
Since 1883, Pearl has transformed from a stone working factory to cobbler’s quarters and now supports that same craftsmanship with food and drink. But, with over 22 acres of land to cover, they struggled to serve their enormous space and all of their guests. The layout was daunting, and the idea of serving across the space was a challenge they were ready to face head-on.
So how exactly did Bbot add $50K to Pearl’s monthly sales without bringing on any new staff? We sat down with Pearl’s General Manager, Leah Smith, to discuss how integrating Bbot has pushed Pearl Food Hall to expand and look at their business in a new light.
Managing 24 vendors across 22+ acres of land
Pearl boasts a variety of offerings, and they’re committed to building something more. One main challenge of operating a large food hall is the number of vendors, tables, and checks to manage.
Before implementing Bbot, Pearl was having difficulty managing the flow of money that comes with operating a large-scale food hall. Transactions for every vendor were funneled through a single account, and Smith sorted each transaction by hand at the end of every business day. She then walked around to the vendors, out of breath and exhausted, to pay them with her company card - it was an extremely manual process.
“It took me about two hours every night to get through the accounting,” Smith said. “It was horrible.”
On top of that, customers couldn’t find the menu for individual vendors. Each shop had its own website with varying order, tip, and pickup practices, and many guests struggled to adapt to the change every time they wanted something new.
In November of 2020, Pearl decided they were ready to move to the next step in their vision. They needed a solution to streamline the ordering and payment process — one that benefited their vendors, their customers, and most importantly, their accounting department. They needed a tech company that would see their Plazamaker mentality and ask, “how can we help.”
With zero server turnover
Pearl Food Hall took Bbot’s in-venue ordering system and hit the ground running. Managing orders and payments from over 100 individual tables on campus needed a powerful online tool, and they created a multi-vendor menu to suit their needs. Three apartment buildings situated on Pearl’s campus also benefited from the change. Guests staying in any of the 638 apartment units can order from any vendor and have their food delivered right to their door.
Implementing this new setup took time and care, and although it had been in the works for some time, Smith didn’t have a way to implement residential delivery. Bbot not only created a new opportunity for fulfillment; Pearl and their online solution worked so well together that they increased their residential sales delivery by 346%.
When making the shift to Bbot’s platform, Smith committed to keeping her staff happy and supported. She knew she was asking her busboys to take on an entirely new job and worried about turnover. Bussers were going from working 20 to 30 tables to serving over 700 tables across several blocks. Her empathy and patience paid off. Her team eagerly accepted the new challenge and rolled up their sleeves to take on their roles. Pearl didn’t lose a single employee in the transition, and they’ve increased wages from $12 to $16 per hour.
“In this industry, it is so hard to find people to work right now. Bbot is literally keeping restaurants afloat, which is phenomenal. It has completely changed our operations,” Smith said.
Bbot's unique online multi-vendor ordering system created a branded universe benefitting the diners and servers. Guests easily place orders from any vendor they want, and servers gather the orders from vendors for a single, speedy delivery to the guest.
Plazamakers pave the way for the rest of us
There’s a lesson to be learned from Pearl’s approach to change in the industry. Adaptation and evolution don't mean people fall by the wayside. In fact, it just makes them even more important. The Plazamakers are using this new revenue to keep moving forward and transform their community.
Smith intends to open their doors even wider, welcoming a new generation of builders, craftspeople, and hopefuls to Pearl. Soon, farmers' markets, artisans, butcheries, and more will join the food hall, creating a never-before-seen space where real estate meets innovation.
“With all of our ideas,” Smith said, “we just imagine all of the ways we can use Bbot across these new locations.”
If you want to learn how Bbot can help scale your business, fill out the form below and get started with a free demo!