Karl Goodhew is the Chief Technology Officer at BurgerFi, one of the nation’s fastest-growing premium, fast-casual restaurant concepts with 116 locations. As a proven engineer and product leader, he has over 15 years of experience in software development, with more than six years spent managing and overseeing enterprise-level programs.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- Karl Goodhew explains how his seemingly unrelated past work experience lead him to BurgerFi
- BurgerFi’s innovative new technologies
- How BurgerFi’s ghost kitchens contribute to its expansion
- The importance of innovation in the food service industry
- Karl’s transition from retail to restaurants
In this episode…
In today’s episode of the SpotOn Series, join Chad Franzen of Rise25 as he sits down with Karl Goodhew, Chief Technology Officer at BurgerFi, to talk about innovative restaurant concepts. Karl discusses BurgerFi’s innovative technologies, the importance of innovation in the food service industry, and his transition from retail to restaurants. Tune in!
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Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show. Powered by Rise25 Media, we featured top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world
Chad Franzen 0:20
Chad Franzen here co host for this show where we feature top restaurant tours investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn Series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called SpotOn Restaurant where they combine marketing software and payments all in one. They’ve served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and subway to small mom and pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spoton.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space, there’s no better way to do it and through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to rise25media.com or email us at [email protected] Karl Goodhew is the Chief Technology Officer at BurgerFi with 116 locations. BurgerFi is not only one of the nation’s fastest growing premium, fast casual concepts. It is also at the forefront of industry innovations BurgerFi is testing and expanding five new technologies and creative strategies to stay ahead of evolving consumer preferences and to combat widespread labor shortages. Karl is a proven engineering and product leader with over 15 years of experience in software development, with an emphasis on delivery and quality. And six and over six years of experience managing and overseeing enterprise level programs. Karl, thank you so much for joining me. How are you?
Karl Goodhew 1:45
I’m great. Thank you for having me, sir.
Chad Franzen 1:46
Hey, before we get into all the innovations that you guys are doing over there at BurgerFi, tell me about the food and the vibe when people go there. What can they expect?
Karl Goodhew 1:54
Oh, well, it’s amazing food. When I joined BurgerFi back in April 21, I decided that I wanted to work somewhere where I could love the product. And I wanted to sit down and with my family. My wife is vegetarian. And I’m a meat lover. And so we have probably one of the better burgers out there. Great cheeseburger with wagyu brisket bland, and then my wife, she has the VeggieFi burger, crispy quinoa. It’s bland, it’s really really good. The fries are amazing, fresh cut handmade milkshakes. And the vibe itself is great. A lot of eco friendly interiors. We have great music playing The staff are always you know, so friendly. And then it’s the neighborhood field. So most of our stores are franchisee run. And the franchisees are a big part of the restaurant and they help out in the community. And you see that in the store themselves.
Chad Franzen 2:49
What was it about was that the primarily the main attraction, you know, as a as a technology guy, you could probably have your choice of, of places to work. What was it about BurgerFi that kind of drew you in? Was that was that it?
Karl Goodhew 3:00
Well, I think it was a number of combinate a number of things. Firstly, you know, I had experience in the digital space with with JC Penney and Home Depot running their mobile apps and website at Macy’s. I got to do the in store experience. And now I had this opportunity to combine everything. And BurgerFi was a great place to do that I saw the potential because BurgerFi has already a great footprint, great offering great product. And so with a little bit of effort, I think we can elevate the experience we can make the customer experience first class, and we’re already start. We already started that last year. But it’s it’s a great opportunity. That’s all I can say.
Chad Franzen 3:41
Sure. As I mentioned, you guys are you guys are taking steps to make the customer experience first class. And you have Yeah, we’re on the forefront of innovation with five new technologies and creative strategies. Can you tell me about the in car ordering system that you guys will be launching?
Karl Goodhew 3:55
Sure. So we’re partnering with a company called NaVi IO. They’re out of Miami. And in the summer of 22. There’ll be new cars rolling off with 5g integrated into the car. So as part of the dashboard, it’s a technology built into the car. The dashboard you can say I’m hungry and it’ll ask you what you’re in the mood for you say burgers and BurgerFi will be an option. It’ll be a limited menu. The feds don’t want folks choosing you know no tomatoes no let us know sauce on in the road. They want to keep it simple. So it’s gonna be a simple menu, burgers, fries, milkshakes drinks, and you’ll be able to drive up to your local BurgerFi it’ll give you directions and your food will be waiting for you because we’ll have it fully integrated so we know how far out you are. The burger will be nice and hot, ready for ice fresh and our staff will be notified when you pulled into the curbside pickup. And there you are nothing else you need to do. You don’t need to pick up your phone. You don’t need to get distracted. It’s right there
Chad Franzen 5:01
is this type of thing common within the industry.
Karl Goodhew 5:05
I think this is the first time I’ve This is the first example I’ve seen of this I, I tried to keep track of competitors as much as possible. I believe this is an industry first,
Chad Franzen 5:15
what led to this idea?
Karl Goodhew 5:17
It was a it’s a joint partnership with Mavi. So Mabi approached us and said, we have this opportunity. We thought this is great. It plays right into our innovation roadmap, which is to test and meet customers where they want to be met and give the customer the best experience they can they can receive. And so as as an innovator in the space, we thought this makes sense. And we agreed to do this partnership.
Chad Franzen 5:44
Who is Patty, the robot.
Karl Goodhew 5:47
Patty is probably our most, our newest employee to BurgerFi, I will say Patti is a food runner and also assists our staff in cleaning up the cleaning up the restaurant. So Patty, Patty runs around the store, she she or he not quite decided on gender. But the patty the robot is has a map of the store. And it has Lidar and camera technology built in so that it won’t run over anybody. It’s very smart, and can talk to customers have an interaction? Have a small conversation. And yeah, it’s it’s great our customers, our customers and employees, the feedbacks been very positive.
Chad Franzen 6:32
Whereas Patty located,
Karl Goodhew 6:36
Patty is located in one of our Florida stores. It’s where we’re going to be introducing to our second one, but she’s in Jupiter.
Chad Franzen 6:45
Okay. How did the idea for Patty come about?
Karl Goodhew 6:49
Again, this is something where we get approached all the time by different technology firms, rich tech robotics approached us pitch the idea. Again, it fits right in with innovation. This is a great pilot program. It’s something one of the steps we do Chad as we do check to make sure that it will make sense on paper from a monetary perspective. Does the economics make sense? If we went full scale? It does. So we’re testing this in one currently, and there’ll be a second location here very shortly.
Chad Franzen 7:21
What are the possible benefits of having more widespread patties ever hit? You know, robots at BurgerFi locations?
Karl Goodhew 7:29
Yeah, so I think it’s it’s very important for me to stay this is not intended to replace our employees. Not at all, we love the employee experience that our employees give to customers. This is an assistant system tool that gives the employees another set of arms, another set of hands, you can carry four or five trays, follow the employee around as they work the restaurant and clean up. So it’s important because it gives our employees that extra set of hands, it’s providing value. And also there’s a bit of an entertainment factor to let’s be honest, and a little bit of a buzz factor. And our customers seem to appreciate that.
Chad Franzen 8:14
How our QR codes helping you reduce wait times.
Karl Goodhew 8:20
Well, we our QR codes have also got NFC technology built in. So you can just tap to pay you don’t have to open up the camera even another partnership, we’re working with a company called robber who also provides our kiosk solutions. And QR codes are great for someone who already knows our menu had been been there a couple of times, so they don’t have to spend, you know, don’t need that employee interaction. And Okay, should I get the BurgerFi burger or the bacon cheeseburger. So they can just sit down scan the QR code or tap and order from the table. It’s also great in that if they’re, if they’re done with their beer or shake, or they want to, you know, a dessert, they can just do that straight from the table to and not have to get back in line. So that’s a great customer benefit. And of course, our employees will still run the food out to you or maybe Patty, the robot will run the food out to you. And yeah, it helps because folks aren’t getting into the line the second time.
Chad Franzen 9:24
Tell me about your ghost kitchens for BurgerFi and also their international expansion. I know you guys have expanded internationally.
Karl Goodhew 9:33
Yeah, absolutely. So we have a couple of ghost kitchen partnerships. We have one in Chicago with Epic. And then we have a second one in Florida and various various areas. Sorry, my mind is drawing a complete blank right now. Why am I drawing a blank? I’m sorry, Chad.
Chad Franzen 9:59
That’s okay. out to two ghost kitchens. What are the benefits? What are the benefits of ghost kitchen as opposed to just a brick and mortar location?
Karl Goodhew 10:09
Yeah, so the benefits are that a ghost kitchen can go anywhere, right? So anywhere, there’s a parking lot, we can put a ghost kitchen can open, and reef is our second partner, I apologize. That’s okay. So reef is our second partner, and they can anywhere they have a parking lot, they have a vessel, they can open up and we can expand very quickly how that’s different from a regular brick and mortar restaurant is that, you know, the investment cost is much, much lower a vessel is far lower, there’s no tables, there’s no chairs to outfit. And so the initial upfront capital is much less. So there’s two strategies that we have with with Ghost kitchens. The first is that we supplement locales where we have brick and mortar traditional restaurants with additional ghost kitchens that really shores up the footprint. And it makes sure that anyone who’s anywhere in that Metro can order BurgerFi, no matter where they live. So that’s, that’s great in that it keeps the name you know, front and center, and anyone can go get BurgerFi whenever they want. 24/7 Essentially, the other method that we have, the other strategy is to open up ghost kitchens in metro areas that we don’t yet have a presence, and we can judge how are we going to do? Is there a natural affinity for burger for great tasting fries? Or maybe it’s an area where hey, that markets already saturated? Let’s let’s go in full force with the brick and mortar traditional restaurants first, but it gives us a good foot in the door with no investment on our side.
Chad Franzen 11:44
And here is one of the ghost pitches is in Dubai.
Karl Goodhew 11:48
Oh, yeah, international. So reef is expanding internationally in the Middle East. So yeah, they’re in Dubai. And I also believe Kuwait. And so it’s, you know, we do have a real franchisee brick and mortar in Saudi also. So that is internationals important to us. And something that helps keep our name out there and spread. spread the good word. Sure.
Chad Franzen 12:16
You also have a hybrid food hall in Chicago. Can you tell me about that? Yeah.
Karl Goodhew 12:19
So that’s epic. So the hybrid food hall is a concept with four or five different brands, the customer can walk in and order anything from any of the brands and on the same ticket. It’s it’s a neat concept. It’s more like a food hall where they can order pizza and a burger and a shake, and then maybe some chicken wings from a different concept. And it all comes at the same time. So this is a new concept partnership that we’re doing with epic, it seems to be seems to be going well. And it’s it’s something that customers like because they can order many things at once many different concepts at once.
Chad Franzen 13:03
So you guys have robots, you have things where people can order in their from their cars, you have it you have everything. Why do you and and by extension, BurgerFi, I think it’s important to be, you know, on top and moving forward at the forefront of all these kinds of innovations.
Karl Goodhew 13:20
Well, first of all, you can be left behind if you don’t, I think that that’s key. I think that our customers are smart, they’re intelligent, they have the phones, the menu in their pocket at all times, we need to be able to meet the customer wherever they want to be met, like I mentioned, they. So if a customer wants to order on their phone, if they want to use a third party delivery service, they want to use Ghost kitchens, they want to be served by a robot, or if they don’t they want to order on a kiosk or talk to a human. If they want to sit down at the table and be served or stand in a line. We are happy to accommodate the customer however they wish.
Chad Franzen 13:58
Did COVID spark any of these ideas or encouraged their acceleration?
Karl Goodhew 14:05
Yeah, I think well, COVID. And then the the knock on effects with labor and, you know, customers not wanting to necessarily go into the store that the they definitely accelerated. Would this have happened in February 2020. Potentially, kiosks are not new. QR codes aren’t new. But the way that customers are using them, and naturally gravitating to them is new. And I think that we saw a big shift in that. So it was beneficial in that regard, if you want to think of positive spins and COVID. But yeah, that’s your question.
Chad Franzen 14:46
Is there anything else that you guys are working on for the future or have in the back of your mind? Maybe?
Karl Goodhew 14:51
Yeah, we’re always innovating. I think you’ll see a lot of changes with our digital offering. We’re really putting a focus on loyalty and 22. We were rethinking everything and really looking at all experiences to make sure they’re top class.
Chad Franzen 15:10
As somebody who moved from, you know, retail into the restaurant industry, what kind of personal adjustments did you have to make?
Karl Goodhew 15:18
Or do you? Well? Yeah, that’s a great question. So I think that with retail i At first, I thought, well, restaurants are a lot like retail, there are certain inventory, you deal with customers, there’s a frontline staff, there’s an E commerce platform, the only difference is the inventory less, maybe a week or three days, or whatever the shelf life is of the product. But other than that, it seems the same, then I got to learn the reality of the restaurant industry, and how how humans are so essential into making the food and making it as good as it is, you know, that in retail, that there’s not that element of the customer service. So that was a big understanding for me. But at the end of the day, that you can somewhat boil it down to creating widgets, selling widgets, and delivering widgets. So in that regard, it’s the same. There’s this huge nuance though, that’s very important. Regarding the human touch.
Chad Franzen 16:18
If you make an innovation, and you decide to incorporate it in all 116 locations, you know, you’re taking kind of petty step by step and 116 locations. What kind of a process is that?
Karl Goodhew 16:32
Well, we’re Patty’s a great example. So we’re in pilot program right now with Patti. We’ll roll it out to more locations, we’ll make sure that it’s working, all the kinks are out of it. And then we’ll ask our franchisees who wants to participate? Here are the benefits, here’s why you should participate in the the pros and the cons and lay it all out very transparently. And we partner with national vendors to roll out very quickly. And essentially, it’s making sure the franchisees are on board and then just rolling it out. It’s it’s not much more complicated than that.
Chad Franzen 17:07
Do you have a favorite meal a BurgerFi?
Karl Goodhew 17:10
Well, for me, it’s I’m a go to cheeseburger or maybe, oh, now think about the conflicted burger is really good. That’s a beef patty with a VeggieFi Patty, you have to go in hungry, but it is great.
Chad Franzen 17:27
All right, great. How can people find out more information about BurgerFi?
Karl Goodhew 17:31
Oh, our website is burgerfi.com. Simple enough. We are always hiring. We definitely looking for great talent. And if you want to find a restaurant, it’s right there under locations on burgerfi.com.
Chad Franzen 17:45
Okay. Hey, Karl. It was it’s been great hearing about everything going on at BurgerFi. This is a unique kind of a unique interview. I haven’t talked to many, you know, technology, guys. And you guys are definitely kind of on the forefront of innovation. So it was great to hear. Hear some of your stories and your insights. I appreciate your time this morning. Oh,
Karl Goodhew 18:00
thank you, Chad. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Chad Franzen 18:02
Thank you. Thanks so much, everybody.
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