Clearwater software company develops tech for hungry diners who want to ‘eat now’ at local restaurants

Consumer demand for convenience in off-premise dining is driving the growth of Clearwater-based restaurant technology company Takeout Button.

Takeout Button, a software firm, provides a way for smaller restaurants to compete with chains by offering online ordering for take-out, delivery and catering.

There are about 40 local restaurants on the company’s Eat Now Button, a platform for consumers to view menus, place orders and make payments, said Cindy Siriwong, co-founder.

“We target a lot of the smaller mom-and-pop small businesses. They don’t have a budget for IT. We make this available at a very affordable price point for them. It doesn’t kill their budget or their bottom lines, versus a lot of other companies where it becomes too costly and only the big companies can afford it,” said Kevin Makles, co-founder and chief technology officer.

Online ordering has been growing rapidly since it was introduced a few years ago in the restaurant industry. Sixty percent of U.S. consumers order delivery or takeout once a week, according to Upserve Restaurant Insider. About one-third of consumers — 34 percent — spend at least $50 per order when ordering food online and 20 percent of consumers say they spend more on off-premise orders compared to a regular dine-in experience.

Convenience also is key, Siriwong said.

“People get lazy and when you make it convenient for them with a few button clicks, that makes it easier to buy and means more sales for the restaurant,” she said.

There are two ways to access a menu — going directly to the restaurant’s own website or through the Eat Now Button website. “We double the chance of growing the sale for them,” said Siriwong, who handles sales and marketing.

Takeout Button charges restaurants a fee for the service. The fee varies, depending on the level of service provided, but Siriwong said it is less costly than national food ordering brands.

“We’re a lot more affordable than the big guys out there and we are here locally. So if you need any support, we will go to the site and fix it. There’s a lot of customization to fit each cuisine and menu. We would do those little touches. The big company wouldn’t customize for you because they’re too big. They don’t go into details like we do,” she said.

Unlike services such as UberEats or Door Dash, Eat Now Button only offers online ordering and not food delivery. Delivery is the responsibility of restaurants on the platform. It’s also up to the restaurants to keep the information current.

“They are responsible for letting us know if they update their menu. When we first bring them on board we work with them to make sure the menu is accurate and correct for both the food description and price. Once a year if we don’t hear from them we’ll reach out to make sure it’s still correct,” Makles aid.

Siriwong described Takeout Button and Eat Now Button as “cheerleaders” for the restaurants on the platform.

“We become their partner. Their success is our success. That’s the only way to win,” she said.

All the restaurants currently on the platform are in the Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater area. Siriwong is looking at expanding to Sarasota.

Siriwong and Makles have bootstrapped the seven-year-old company, but as it grows, they are considering outside investment. They are the only full-time employees, but have interns from Eckerd College and St. Petersburg College who work on software development and social media.

A handful of those restaurants offered samples of their food at the company’s Cater Time event at the Holiday Inn in Clearwater last month.

“We want to educate people, because tasting is believing. We want people to come and taste the food and once they like the food we show them how to order catering online. It’s going to become second nature,” Siriwong said.

“Right now, online ordering for food delivery is everywhere. It’s become a norm, and it will expand to catering as well. So before that becomes a norm, we want to spearhead, here in Tampa Bay, and show them that we have the technology for that already.”