Mobile app developer Storific hosted a launch party for its new, social mobile ordering application on Friday. The festivities at Travis Park were accompanied by live blues and a long line of colorful San Antonio food trucks.
The event was labeled a “launch party,” but it was also a homecoming of sorts for Storific Chief Marketing Officer Zachary Stovall, who was born and raised in San Antonio before he ventured overseas to pursue business goals.
Stovall and a small, multinational team started Storific in 2009 in Paris. Their self-named debut app allows users to order and pay for food at restaurants from smartphones or tablets, skipping lines in the process.
It works like this: from the free app, you select a participating restaurant, café, bar, or food truck. Next, you browse the on-screen menu, make your food selections, and place your order. The restaurant receives your order and notifies you through the app when it is ready for pick up. In theory, your food is ready when you arrive – no wait times. Because Storific connects directly to your credit card or Paypal account, you don’t even have to stop and pay.
“We’re at the forefront of mobile ordering,” Stovall said in an earlier interview. “91 percent of customers at restaurants own smartphones. Storific connects restaurant owners with patrons in a completely new way.”
The company’s recent move to San Antonio was prompted in part by obstacles it encountered pushing its app in Europe. Language barriers played a role, but more encumbering was the relative dearth of mobile connectivity in European business life.
“We had a lot more success with the app in Paris than we had originally expected,” said Kyle Cornelius, Storific chief operating officer and one of the company’s founding members. “But our app was made for America.”
Why San Antonio as the site for their relocation to the mobile-savvy states? Storific was attracted by the prospect of Geekdom, the downtown, collaborative workspace that houses and supports small, tech-based businesses.
“(Geekdom) doesn’t take a portion of your business, like some other similar enterprises,” said Cornelius. “With Geekdom, it was all positives. We really value collaboration, and this program in this city gave us that.”
There also seems to be something deeper. “Everyone always underestimates San Antonio,” Stovall said emphatically at the launch party. “Not us. We know this place is special.”
From its new headquarters, Storific makes a forthright point of targeting the young, fast-moving urbanite of San Antonio, the downtown denizen who has places to go and people to see.
According to Storific, that mission goes hand in hand with helping restaurants to increase order efficiency.
“With Storific, restaurants will be able to double the amount of completed orders at peak hours of business,” Cornelius said. “In a traditional operation, an average of four to five minutes is spent verbally transferring the order from customer to order taker to chef. Storific makes that whole process instantaneous.”
Storific sees itself as a boon to small, locally-owned restaurants. Stovall drew my attention to the fact that major bakery chain Panera Bread recently spent $42 Million developing an in-house mobile ordering app.
“Small restaurants simply do not have that sort of capital to spend,” Stovall said. “We help those businesses incorporate triple-A features into their online presence—we help the minnows swim with the sharks.”
And for those readers concerned that Storific might threaten the traditional experience of going out to eat, the undeniable mystique of a beautiful, relaxing, white tablecloth evening, Stovall has a calming word.
“Storific can absolutely exist in tandem with traditional dining. In fact, it enhances that aspect of the restaurant experience. With the time we help restaurants save, sit-down diners will wait less, and enjoy more.”
So, Storific has come to San Antonio, promising relief in an eating world with too many lines. But does it do so with grace?
First off, Storific scores high marks on aesthetics. The design is clean, the colors bright, and the user interface unobtrusive. The in-app restaurant pages are chock full of attractive, high-definition photos of food and venues.
The app is split into three sections: “wallet,” where you handle your payment method; “social,” where you can review past orders and post your experiences to Facebook; and “order,” where you can locate restaurants and order food in-app. Storific offers several different methods of finding dining spots, including a Google-style map (see image above). My only gripe: on the map, it is difficult to discern which San Antonio restaurants use Storific.
Payment-wise, set-up is easy. The app allows you to scan a credit card using your phone’s camera, or input Paypal account information. When you finalize your order, you simply swipe your finger to pay. It was so easy, in fact, that paying for food felt dangerous; one could easily get carried away making in-app purchases.
The restaurant menus within Storific do their job, with one caveat: If you are a picky eater, or one with dietary restrictions, there are limited opportunities to fine-tune your order. The team at Storific touted the customizable menu featured, so I am not sure if restaurants have taken advantage of the full array of features. Personally, I could not find the “please hold the onions” button.
Storific is pretty and easy to use, but what about the service side? Does mobile ordering actually work?
It does. I used Storific twice, once from a coffee shop, and once from a food truck. In the first case, I ordered, drove down to the shop, and told the servers that I had made a mobile order. They reacted with surprise; I was one of the first to make use of the new service. I ended up waiting for my drinks, as the servers had not yet signed into the app and were unaware of my order. The app itself worked without a hitch.
My second experience was smoother. I ordered, was notified when my order was ready, and picked it up. There was no waiting. Afterward, the food truck sent me a notification thanking me for my patronage. Nice.
Overall, Storific seems like a slick step in the right direction. If you’re in a hurry, or loathe waiting in lines, this app will definitely work in your favor. Whether Storific graduates from a useful app to a must-have download, however, depends on how many restaurants adopt it.
If and/or when Storific picks up steam in the local dining scene, it has a good chance of becoming a daily part of San Antonio life. The more people that use the app, the better it will ultimately get.
*Featured/top image: San Antonians enjoy quick food and free entertainment at Travis Park, courtesy of Storific. Photo by Samuel Jensen.