Three years ago, I went to a Chinese restaurant in Salt Lake (which shall remain nameless) that was so awful I cringe to think about it. And believe me, I know what Chinese food should taste like — my last name’s Wang, for 皮特’s sake.
After that experience, I had a choice: to write an honest review on Google or Yelp and save others from soggy potstickers and over cooked lo mein, or to keep my keyboard shut and not be cruel. I chose the latter.
As someone who also goes to restaurants a fair amount, Zack Oates has come to this crossroads too. “I wanted a better way to connect with restaurants and give them feedback without damaging their online reputation,” he told me.
That’s when Zack came up with the idea for Ovation, a platform for local businesses to measure customer experience.
“Local businesses live or die based on online reviews and repeat customers, but people are three times more likely to leave a negative reviews and 70% won’t return for a second visit,” Zack says. “We’re the tool that helps fight that. We use QR codes, short links, and kiosks to interact with customers, and then the data we collect enables business owners to win back unhappy customers and bring people back.”
Here’s how Ovation works from the restaurant-goer’s side: “You walks into a restaurant, order your food, and while you’re waiting, you’ll see a table topper with an opportunity to win a $100 gift card,” Zack explains. “You can take out your iPhone, open the camera, point it at the QR code, and BAM! The website opens. You rate your experience, enter your contact info, and then leave additional feedback for the restaurant and an online review.”
The core Ovation team is made up of Zack (CEO), Scott Weinert (CTO), Seth Weinert (Director of Sales), and Derek Morgan (Director of Customer Success).
“I met Scott when we worked together on our first startup, Imply Labs. It was a gifting business that translated social media data into gift recommendations, and it was featured in WIRED, Mashable, WSJ, and the New York Times,” Zack says. “After that, I got my MBA and Scott started and sold a company. Then we came back together to start Ovation with Seth — Scott’s rockstar sales brother — and Derek — our employee #1.”
Since Ovation officially launched in the spring, it’s been going strong, growing in revenue, customers, and investment dollars. With all that, it’s no surprise Zack and his team were accepted to 500 Startups’ latest cohort.
“We started with three goals: 100 locations, $10k MRR, and $100,000 billed total revenue. We hit all three of those before we applied to 500 Startups, and we’ve been growing at 20-30% month over month while being completely bootstrapped,” Zack says. “Our system’s resulted in 2-3x less one-star reviews, 5-10x more five-star reviews, and 5-10% more revenue for our customers.”
So the next time you eat out, keep an eye open for Ovation’s QR codes and kiosks, and feel comfort in knowing you can leave totally honest feedback for the owner without making it a public review.
Learn more about Ovation on their website, and help them grow by sharing them with your favorite local business.
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