In 2016, three former Navy friends saw their innovative visions come true. Their first beverage delivery “robot” debuted in downtown Cincinnati's Tokyo Kitty karaoke lounge.
The robot sent digital orders from customers in their private rooms to the bartender, who loaded up the robotic tray to soar up into the ceiling, across the facility, and to awaiting customers, and even ensured payments — and tips.
Whether you are from the Jetson generation or take your Roomba vacuum for granted, it is fun to consider cocktails ordered from your phone and delivered from your ceiling.
Unfortunately, it is also pricey to install the equipment to deliver your Daiquiri. So, when the pandemic shuttered restaurants and karaoke joints alike, the trio recalculated how they could put the ordering and payment brains behind their Bbot to work in other ways. Turns out there were plenty.
Today, Bbot is a thriving software business powering contactless ordering, delivery and pay management. Bbot is behind the scenes at your neighborhood restaurants that now share their menus from a QR code link. And they also connect the data where Toast and meal delivery services like Relay and DoorDash Drive leave off.
Bbot attracts restaurants, partners, consumers and prospective employees alike. For example, Tara Morgan says she was so excited about the company and opportunity to dive into an innovative space she offered to start as an intern. The fast-moving company recognized Tara’s skills and quickly moved her into a full time role. Tara now leads People and Business Operations and has two priorities, “to protect the business and shower the people with the care they need.”
Shortly after co-founders Steve Simoni, Luke Allen and Greg Jaworski launched the business in 2016, they knew they wanted a strong technology foundation to help streamline and scale their business. They went looking for an HR system to grow with them.
Good thing. Because even though their founding vision didn’t find enough of the right market at the time, having their operations in place helped them save time to quickly pivot into a whole new market created at the start of the pandemic in 2020.
Bbot’s management team selected Zenefits People Operations Platform in 2018 to help cover their HR, Benefits and Payroll needs. And they also subscribed to Zenefits Advisory Services to ensure they had quick access to professional counsel when they needed it.
In 2020, they leaned into that investment in a big way.
To meet demand, the company needed to scale its nascent hiring practices in order to compete for sought-after software engineers and sales and partnership pros. The company founders quickly recognized that even though the business had operated remotely since its launch, each time they hired someone from a new location, they increased compliance and tax challenges.
In two years the company has grown from 13 to 85 employees, working from their respective homes— in over 25 states.
Zenefits is truly equipped for remote teams.
Head of People and Business Operations
Tech Company Builds its Tools and Its Plans in Sprints
“In a start-up — especially in this environment —it’s hard to plan a full year in advance,” says Tara.
One key to the young company’s growth is its flexibility, staying alert and nimble to meet the emerging needs of the market. So, Bbot looks closely at its goals and the best investments of time and resources for its business on a quarterly basis instead. Not dissimilar to how it develops products in short, well-defined “sprints.”
This agility has helped the company expand from ordering and payment management for just restaurants, to a quickly-growing business that also supports delivery services and pop-up or “Ghost” kitchens. The most recent addition: powering orders through the OpenTable app.
Keeping ahead of this with a totally remote team, means that keeping them connected and engaged is a huge priority.
“Our people are at the front of everything we do. Personally, I am focused on showering them with care to ensure they are well and happy in their roles,” adds Tara.
What does that look like? Well it starts with bi-annual culture surveys to tune in on how the team is doing and what they need to thrive. As a company focused on great customer experience, Bbot doesn’t guess when it comes to their team’s experience either.
In the first quarter of 2022, Tara’s focus was rolling out new benefits and perks. Her priorities: the company’s first 401K program, home office allowances, a wellness stipend, and meal stipends to order from Bbot’s customers located near their distributed staff. She also has plans to set up a virtual breakroom, scheduled for a few hours a week. The only goal: check in on each other, not on action items from work. One popular use of that time is playing virtual reality games together. In fact, for each employee as a holiday gift, the Leadership team gifted an Oculus VR Headset.
People Operations Set for Long Term Value
Even with a laser focus on 12-week incremental improvements, Bbot has a long-range view of the employee journey. Tara’s team recently built out the company’s first onboarding training program for new hires and is vocal about the company’s investment in continual development. “We want this to be a great place to learn and grow, and have no restrictions on continuing education. We encourage our people to take the time they need to learn and become leaders in the industry and in their functions.”
Further, Bbot has set up bi-directional performance conversations so that employees and their managers can learn and grow from each other’s feedback. And they back it up with defined growth paths, salary bands, and transparency. In fact, each department’s sprints include open feedback, context on how to leverage new benefits like setting up the 401K, and a focus on recalibrating when something doesn’t work.
“We help free everyone’s time by having Zenefits all-in-one system to streamline the ‘work about work.’ It makes it easy for employees to check their pay stubs, request PTO, change their benefits information, and stay connected, all from their phones.
“Having Zenefits as an online platform is key for us to work and to grow. We take advantage of not only the Zenefits apps but also its technology integrations to do more from one hub. In fact we often choose our productivity and HR apps based on whether they are integrated with Zenefits. We use Slack, GSuite, Betterment, Lever and Truework, with Zenefits which saves us a ton of time.”
For Tara’s first 18 months at Bbot, she was an operations team of one. She now has ops and talent acquisition pros in place, but relies heavily on Zenefits to ensure all of them free up time.
“With employees in over 25 states, I can’t imagine having to figure out withholding percentages and tax returns. Zenefits handles that too and is truly equipped for remote teams.”
Insight from Analytics
“My number one Zenefits advantage is the benefits intelligence app. I use it every day.”
“Our leadership team manages from data. With Zenefits, I have built out a full set of People Ops KPIs that we review monthly, along with custom reports by department. With our salary bands in place, now I can track goals like diversity and pay equity and have it at my fingertips. Zenefits’ user interface makes it easy to find and pull new data. For example, I needed to report on salary versus bonuses paid out, for a board meeting. I found the pre-made report in the Zenefits Payroll app. Zenefits User Interface is up there with the best of them.”
Tara’s tip? “Tap the free Zenefits Product Training and get certified, so that you don’t miss out on any of the deep functionality. When you truly know the platform, you are capable of so much more than what you’d think by only looking on the surface.”
And, taking her own advice on development, Tara is further fine-tuning her professional skills. For example, she just finished reading Zenefits’ best-selling new book, People Operations.
Even without a beverage robot, we’ll toast to that!