After COVID-19 lockdowns, my co-founder, Shehryar Malik, and I made it a point to visit local businesses. One business I remember vividly was a main street bar, sandwiched between other reeling brick-and-mortars in the Mission District of San Francisco.
Each storefront illustrated an attempt to adapt. Some had outdoor seating spaces, ranging from well-funded patios equipped with heavy-duty heaters and wide-screen TVs to smaller, more intimate parklets with locally-painted murals and dimmed string lights. The inside of every business, originally built to seat guests or host shoppers, turned into either storage rooms or - in the case of restaurants - online ordering war rooms. Some storefronts, of course, were completely shut down, with handwritten farewell letters thanking their community.
Shehryar and I took a seat at this bar's outdoor patio. It was the early afternoon on a weekday, so there weren't many people. We sat on wooden high-top chairs where cars had parked just months ago. There was a TV playing ESPN, but a cracked screen turned our attention to a bartender approaching us to take our order. He welcomed us to his establishment, then proceeded to explain that to order alcohol, we must order food as well. Interestingly, the bar themselves wouldn't make the food; rather, food is made by a restaurant across the street.
Having started TableTab in 2019 with a focus on full-service restaurants, Shehryar and I were intrigued. We asked our bartender how food orders get communicated to the restaurant across the street, and how payment is handled with this division of labor. None of the answers were spoken with enthusiasm, of course. Working with other businesses was painful. Communicating a food order required manual work for the bartender, whose role expanded into the point person for food, communicating and running orders across the street. While payment wasn’t the bartender’s headache, it was certainly the accountant’s. The bar’s financial reports had to incorporate food sales made on behalf of another business, thus delaying payouts and complicating applications for monetary support like PPP loans.
Ever since that visit, Shehryar and I understood one thing very well: collaborating with other businesses stinks. COVID-19 validated this. When businesses need to operate alongside other businesses, new pain points arise adding to the long list of headaches already experienced by operators.
And yet, cross-business collaboration was the only thing that allowed the bar to bounce back from COVID-19 instead of going out of business. The bar needed the restaurant to take orders, as much as the restaurant needed the bar to receive orders. As a result, both businesses benefited through revenue that, without each other, would have been lost.
While Shehryar and I understood that collaboration between businesses was full of friction, it was also full of opportunity. If it were easier for businesses to collaborate and operate together, businesses could tap into a more sustainable business model defined by lower costs, increased revenue, and a more enjoyable customer experience. Such a business model is not just effective in mitigating the extreme struggles experienced through a global pandemic; it is also very effective in mitigating the higher cost structures that were already thinning out businesses’ profit margins before the pandemic hit, an issue that will continue in the post-pandemic world.
The only problem? In the period after COVID-19 lockdowns, when we visited the bar, collaborative tools for brick-and-mortars did not exist. Point of sale systems are designed to only service the business it was purchased by, and cannot connect to other point of sale systems used by other businesses (to split order fulfillment, for example). Similarly, payment processors are used to take payment on behalf of a single business, rather than multiple business (as is done on e-commerce sites, like Amazon).
As a result of our experiences with businesses after COVID-19 lockdowns, TableTab committed itself to building the world’s first collaborative point-of-sale and management system. Our mission is to empower businesses to work together. We do this by making it easier for businesses to operate with each other, through our extensive suite of software solutions businesses can simply plug into their existing hardware.
After nearly a year of development and refinement in our product, our team is excited to announce that our collaborative system is in market. Today, TableTab works with partners from the San Francisco Bay Area to New York City, each with their own unique collaborative operation. We are now focused on bringing TableTab to businesses across the country who see the potential in collaboration.
Over the next few months, we will publish blog posts diving into the uniqueness of TableTab and our product. We invite you to sign up below to receive our blog posts, and share this post with those you think will find TableTab interesting. You can also talk to our team.