Tastemakers Podcast: The Past, Present, and Future of Restaurant Technology with Christina Dorobek


Christina Dorobek, Levelup’s Chief Sales Officer, started with the company from its humble beginnings as SCVNGR, a mobile gaming platform that used technology to connect people to places and motivate customer behavior. She’s been with LevelUp through it all and has seen the company and its restaurant technology transform to where it is today.

Christina spoke with Paul McEnany on the Tastemakers podcast while at this year’s Restaurant Leadership Conference about the history of LevelUp and the company’s product roadmap moving forward. Read ahead for a sneak peek into their discussion, and listen to the 20-minute podcast here.


Tastemakers Host Paul McEnany (PM): Why did SCVNGR pivot from mobile gaming to the restaurant-focused digital loyalty and mobile payments platform that is LevelUp today?

Christina Dorobek (CD): We ran a tremendously successful campaign on the SCVNGR platform with Buffalo Wild Wings back in 2010. Back in the Foursquare era, location-based gaming was in, and people loved “checking in” and becoming the “mayor” of different locations; we based our mobile gaming “challenges” on that concept. Within this promotion, we enabled Buffalo Wild Wings to customize their own challenges. They ran a “wing sauce challenge,” photo challenges, and more. Customers would earn points for different challenges and could redeem those points for different rewards to use at Buffalo Wild Wings. This may sound familiar — it’s not very different from the loyalty programs live on the LevelUp platform right now.

At the end of this promotion, we shared a bunch of data with Buffalo Wild Wings: how many customers participated in the challenges, how many challenges they completed, and the number of tweets and Facebook posts that customers sent out. But Buffalo Wild Wings came to us with even more data: same store sales were up and guest frequency increased thanks to the promotion. They shared transactional data that explained how we impacted their revenue and their business.

That was the lightbulb moment for us. We had expertise in gaming and motivating customer behavior through technology, and we needed to tie that into the transaction to report back on the value we were driving to our partners. And that’s how LevelUp started mobile payments in the restaurant industry.

Now onto today…

PM: What features does LevelUp offer that you wish restaurants would take better advantage of?

CD: We launched a new product in January of this year called LevelUp Broadcast. This product  is based on a trend that we started to see years ago: the amount of real estate on a customer’s phone is fiercely competitive. In fact, the average customer downloads less than one app per month… which is a crazy stat for someone who sells apps to be quoting!

With Broadcast, we built exclusive relationships with an array of channels like Yelp and Chase Pay (with more exciting channels coming soon!). We distribute our partner restaurants’ menus and ordering capabilities directly through these third-party channels, which enables brands to acquire new customers and bring new orders through their existing POS. This product is unique in that you don’t have to be a LevelUp loyalty partner to take advantage of it — we have partners who work with our “competitors” for loyalty that still leverage Broadcast.

The other basic answer: the LevelUp Hub is our backend tool that houses a restaurant’s CRM, insights and analytics, and campaign tools. It’s a really powerful tool… so powerful that a brand could really have one person dedicated to running it. We recognize that everyone has ten other things that they’re balancing, so it’s really a competition for time to be able to take full advantage of what the Hub offers.

Download the Tastemakers Podcast to hear more about the past and present of the restaurant industry, and subscribe to the blog for more industry insights:

Suzy Whalen

Suzy Whalen

Suzy is the B2B Marketing Manager at LevelUp, where she brings the conference circuit to life with food, fun, and cool (yet useful) swag. When she isn’t coordinating conferences, you can find Suzy planning her own travel, bouncing around the gym, or crossing off her list of Boston restaurants to try.

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