Anup Balagopal, Torchfi Founder and CEO, with the Torchfi device
Bob Carr co-owns Moxies Cafe and Caterer in downtown Tampa.
A sign at Moxies Cafe and Caterer introduces visitors to the Wifi Waiter.
Allen Clary is Entrepreneur in Residence at Tampa Bay Wave.
It’s lunch break and you’re on a tight schedule. You don’t want to spend your time waiting in line to order. No problem. Wifi Waiter has you covered.
Without an app, you can take a seat and order.
“What we’ve done is basically brought in tableside ordering,” explains Anup Balagopal, Founder and CEO of Tampa-based Torchfi.
Using the restaurant’s Internet service, Wifi Waiter levels the playing field for brick-and-mortar businesses that, ordinarily, don’t have the ability to recognize repeat customers when they walk in the door. “They faced a significant challenge when competing with online services. The one thing we wanted to do was bring in technology for offline business, and help them do the same things that online does.”
Wifi Waiter is live in two locations in downtown Tampa: The Attic and Moxies Cafe and Caterer. “We are always looking to improve the customer experience, and saw this as a unique opportunity for our customers to be able to 'skip the line' in our fast casual restaurant,” says Moxies’ co-owner Bob Carr. “It’s a great fit since we already deliver the food to the table, so the impact to operations is minimal to gain a near full-service experience.”
Torchfi is targeting fast casual restaurants that, by definition, don’t have servers to take your order. Restaurants pay for a monthly subscription with little, upfront cost. “Once we have proven this product here in the Tampa Bay region, I believe we will be able to scale this across the country with the same chains,” Balagopal says.
Starting this week, Torchfi is expected to facilitate the ordering process for those who typically order the same, or similar, menu items. “We make it easier for the customer to actually place an order by recording their ordering history,” Balagopal says.
Torchfi’s engineering and backup operations are in India, but its headquarters moved to Tampa four months ago after being chosen to participate in Tampa Bay Wave, a non-profit to help entrepreneurs grow tech businesses.
“They have been our angel in Tampa,” Balagopal says. “What Wave brings is an amazing network of mentors and industry experts who help identify what the market actually requires.”
Allen Clary, a Tampa Bay Wave Mentor and Entrepreneur in Residence, calls Torchfi “one of our shooting stars.” “It’s absolutely one of the most innovative company products we have in the Wave right now,” he says.
He notes Torchfi has made the cut for the Investor Pitch Day Jan. 27, meaning it has passed rigorous review and will be able to pitch to qualified investors in Tampa Bay.
Balagopal has his eyes fixed on even greater opportunities beyond the restaurant industry. He’s thinking about malls, stadiums and airports.
With a small Torchfi device connecting customers to an Internet router and enabling free access, it doesn’t matter if you’re working on a laptop, or using a tablet or phone. “It’s simple and quick,” he says.