Trio of entrepreneurs turns to crowdfunding to finance Pizza Bite Button

Gregory Panos, Raymond Steinbacher and Jeffrey Morgan—the brains behind ThinkActBuyLocal.com—wanted to help independent pizzerias increase their sales, and they knew that online ordering could help. So they’ve dreamed up a simple ordering system called the Pizza Bite Buttonand hope to raise money through Indiegogoto finance their vision. Gregory Panos of ThinkActBuyLocal.com talked with PMQ about the system—which is still in the development process—and the company’s goal to provide independent pizzerias with an easy-to-use, one-touch ordering system.

PMQ: What is the Pizza Bite Button?

GP: It’s a stand-alone refrigerator magnet/button for pizzeria customers that has the following functionality:

· Each button will have a unique serial code and identifier to set up functionality as described below.

· Like an EZ-Pass, it will be linked to a (digital) account in the cloud where the pizzeria’s customer can deposit funds and from which the food orders can be paid for.

· It will be configurable to the customer’s home or office wi-fi system to allow for Internet access.

· The customer has a dashboard/app where the issuing pizza parlor’s menu is available. The customer then configures a pre-set order from the menu and saves it.

· Once pressed, the order is instantly sent to the pizza parlor for completion and delivery.

· The amount of the order is deducted from the customer’s online account, and the pizza parlor gets paid (less a small percentage for us)

PMQ: How will this system benefit pizzerias?

GP: A participating pizzeria will not only have the buttons (which offer a convenient advantage over their competitors), but they will also have a mobile app to go with it, allowing non pre-set orders to be sent. Food orders placed online or through mobile apps are typically 15%-25% higher than your average call-in order. This approach can also help reduce order errors and increase frequency of orders.

PMQ: Is this for larger chains or for any pizzeria?

GP: The Pizza Button is designed for independents only. This follows our ThinkActBuyLocal mission of helping small businesses compete with the national chains and keep up with technology.

PMQ: What sort of technology will be needed on the pizzeria’s end to be involved?

GP: Just an Internet connection. At the pizzeria, the orders can be sent via email, via Wi-Fi printer (you can buy a HP Wi-Fi enabled printer for under $100), or both.

PMQ: And you are raising funds to move past the prototype stage?

GP: Yes, we would like to move to a beta stage and test with some actual pizzerias. That is why we are offering some exclusive territories to early adopters.

PMQ: How much money is needed?

GP: We need about $250,000 total, and this can be from a combination of private investment and crowd-funding.

PMQ: What will you do specifically with the funds?

GP: We’ll build the initial buttons needed for beta testing. We feel we need four or five pizzerias spread around different areas of the U.S. for this testing stage.

PMQ: Is crowd-funding the way to go for niche projects like this one?

GP: I think it is a good way to go, but it is a challenge. There are so many cool ideas out there, so you need to really have a pre-launch plan…including PR, social media, etc. to create buzz. I feel we probably should have waited a few weeks before launching to get our PR and buzz out there. That was a mistake we made, but we are undeterred…We are confident that we will raise the funds necessary to move the project forward.

PMQ: Can the button be made child-proof?What if someone accidentally hit it and sent out an order by mistake? Is there a cancel button?

GP: We are building in some failsafe methods to prevent what you speak of. The customer will be able to choose which safeguards they can enact. Obviously an adult or college student living alone doesn’t need the same safeguards that a family with small children would need. The dollar amount in their account can also be configured to automatically refill or manually refill. This is another safeguard so that Junior can’t run up thousands of pizza orders. Here are a couple of examples of what we are going to include as choices:

· A confirmation text can be sent to their mobile phone every time an order is placed. It would include a specified time by which the order can be canceled simply by responding to the text.

· Customers can only place one order every (certain number of) hours, and they can choose that number.

PMQ: Tell me more about Think..Act..Buy..Local and the service you provide?

GP: My degree was in Restaurant and Hotel Management from Penn State University. I grew up in the family restaurant business, running diners, bakeries and pizzerias. I have also been involved with computers and coding for over 30 years, creating proprietary POS software for some of my family’s business. I started a digital marketing company, The NGAGE Company (http://ngagecompany.com), about 10 years ago, and last year I formed ThinkActBuyLocal.com, LLC with Raymond Steinbacher (a friend and coder extraordinaire), and Jeffrey Morgan (a graphic artist who owns JDM Creative).

ThinkActBuyLocal is limited to creating mobile apps for small businesses and our own directory apps (Bites.Nites.Sites, and ThinkActBuyLocal), which we are launching nationwide this month, plus the Pizza Bite Button and a small business resource center. The small business resource center gives small businesses access to monthly webinars, articles, DIY videos, best-practices, etc. for marketing strategies utilizing technology.

Other services like responsive web design, graphics, social media marketing and marketing strategies are available from either ngagecompany.com and/or jdmcreative.com

PMQ: You provide a mobile app service? Tell us more.

GP: As small business owners ourselves, we understand how hard it is to compete with bigger companies. ThinkActBuyLocal was started in an effort to connect small businesses with their clients in ways that would be expensive and difficult on their own. We recognize the importance of local businesses becoming part of today's mobile landscape and therefore offer a mobile app service for small businesses, where they can have control of the content through our CMS dashboard.

We make it very affordable for small businesses to have high-quality, high-functionality mobile apps. There are services where businesses can design their own, but that would (in most cases) be a mistake. A smart business person realizes what their strengths and weaknesses are, so just because you may be a superstar when it comes to running a restaurant or pizzeria doesn’t mean you have the right knowledge to design an app properly.

To learn more visit Indiegogo at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pizza-bite-button.