Stepping Up: Upserve offers free online ordering software for restaurants

A CUSTOMER uses Upserve's online ordering system, which is now being offered for 12 months free to restaurant customers. / COURTESY UPSERVE

PROVIDENCE – Sheryl Hoskins has spent the last two decades in software IT, including her current role as CEO of Providence-based restaurant management software company, Upserve.

But the Chicago native’s career began in food service; her first job was cleaning bathrooms and working the cash register for a local McDonald’s.

And those early experiences continue to color Hoskins’ understanding and appreciation for the restaurant industry and its workers, especially now.

“I have told my kids their first job needs to be at a restaurant,” Hoskins said. “I want them to appreciate how hard it is to work at one.”

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Seeking to help an industry ravaged by the coronavirus crisis, Hoskins and the Upserve team recently launched a new promotion: 12 months of its virtual point-of-sale and online ordering software free to any new restaurant customer, coupled with complimentary Facebook advertising to help spread the word about online ordering.

The promotion, a $99 cost typically, reflects the company’s commitment to helping keep struggling restaurants afloat amid what will likely be a prolonged period without revenue through typical, dining room services.

Since launching the free offering in late March, the company has seen “hundreds” of new clients take advantage of the opportunity, while existing customers continue to rely on Upserve for specific software and tailored data analytics to boost their online sales, Hoskins said.

So far, it’s working. Nationwide, Upserve reported an 840% increase in weekly sales from clients using online ordering since February. Average online orders are up 129%, with some clients reporting revenue levels on-par with their pre-COVID-19 numbers, Hoskins said.

In Rhode Island, the biggest increases have come from restaurant clients on the rural reaches of the state, who reported a 200% bump in sales since February. Providence-area clients have seen online order sales tick up 12%, Hoskins said.

While online ordering is by no means a novel offering among restaurants, many of Upserve’s new clients are small to medium-sized businesses that, prior to the pandemic, relied primarily on the intimate experience of their dining rooms to drive business. With such experiences now on-hold in many states, including Rhode Island, even old-school restaurant owners are seeing the benefits to online order services, coupled with other innovative ideas.

“Part of the story is really around how many restaurateurs have gotten super innovative and creative and flipped their pre-COVID business model on its ear,” Hoskins said, naming a local restaurant client in Warren who has offered new dinner and CSA packages as a way to boost sales as example.

Hoskins, who now lives in Barrington, is always on the patrol for new clients as her family continues to enjoy regular takeout from local restaurants.

“Every time I see a restaurant that says call in for orders, I let our sales team know,” she said.

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