Cool Mobile Tools for International Travelers

Whether you’re splurging on a dream trip to Paris or planning for cheap holidays in Benidorm this summer, take the time to download a few of the awesome smartphone apps out there that can help make your European trip smoother – and more fun for you and your loved ones at home who enjoy your adventures from afar.

There are, of course, a lot of smartphone travel apps that help you choose nearby accommodations according to your budget and preferences, but there are also some that are far cooler and offer varying services.

Many, many travel apps offer fun, useful tools to enhance your vacations. (While many are cross-platform, be sure to see if the ones you want are available for your phone’s OS, or just search for their “other-phone” counterparts.)

Postagram 
Who doesn’t love getting postcards in the mail? Especially these days when so much written communication has gone digital. This clever app lets you take a photo with your smartphone camera, type in a postcard-length message, enter the recipients’ address, and imagine their faces when they get your one-of-a-kind card in the mail. It’s 99¢ for U.S. delivery, $1.99 for international – not a lot more expensive than postal rates. The app itself is free.

Travel App Box
Billed as the Swiss Army knife of travel apps, it converts currency, tracks flights, translates, calculates tips, and much more. Travel App Box also has offline maps (including public transportation layouts in 40 cities worldwide) – very helpful if you’ve forgotten your foldout.

Weather Apps
Once again, there are a lot to choose from here. Download the best you find and take advantage of being able to plan your trip on the fly around good beach days and rainy museum ones.

aMetro
One hundred and eighty of the world’s major transit maps consolidated in one place. This app is gold.

Tipping Bird
This one’s a good one to have, traveling or not. Tipping Bird lets you select a country and tells you how they tip in various scenarios. You can also convert currency to your own so you have a sense of how much you’re spending – and how well (or not!) the service industry makes out in the countries you visit.

Trip Splitter
If you’re traveling with friends, this app is another great find. It keeps track of who’s paid what, so you don’t have to work things out all over again at the table, market, or the bar.

So have fun with these super helpful apps and check out the many others that are out there – heck, think of one of your own to invent. (But when you’re on the road be sure to spend more time looking up and around than at your phone!

This post was contributed by Natasha Simons. Natasha is currently trying to visit as many countries as possible while writing about her experiences to support her journey.

Ten Ways to Increase Revenue with Social Media

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just opened your first restaurant or you’re celebrating your 20th anniversary: you can’t afford to neglect social media nowadays. Facebook has over a billion active users, and Twitter has a little over half of that number. Restaurant owners can’t afford to miss out on this valuable revenue-boosting tool. Here are ten ways to earn more money for your business by using social media.

Create Social Media Profiles

Create a Social Media ProfilePhoto credit: mkhmarketing via Compfight cc

Aaron Allen, a restaurant consultant, advises restaurant owners to establish a presence on social media. Open accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, if you haven’t already done so. Display links to your social media profiles in a prominent place on your website, so visitors will not need to hunt for them. Allen also recommends adding feeds from these profiles to your site; these feeds can show people engaging with your brand, which will encourage others to try out your restaurant.

Sign Up for Foursquare

Foursquare for RestaurantsPhoto credit: dpstyles™ via Compfight cc

Foursquare is a popular mobile device application that people use to find where to hang out based on recommendations from friends and experts. They check in at locations registered with Foursquare and share that information through their social media feeds. It’s free to register your restaurant on Foursquare, and once you’ve signed up, you can promote your business by posting special events and discounts. Customers can also earn badges through Foursquare, which spurs people to visit your restaurant.

Create a Mobile Application or Website

mobile apps for restaurantsPhoto credit: paterjt via Compfight cc

Mobile device applications are programs designed specifically for smartphones and tablets. They can be an important marketing tool in today’s hyper-connected world. Your mobile application could let customers make a reservation or order takeout. It could also alert your client base to discounts or menu changes. The app could also let them “check in” virtually to Foursquare, post pictures on Instagram, or share comments on Twitter or Facebook.

Offer Coupons Online

online couponsPhoto credit: HA! Designs – Artbyheather via Compfight cc

Your restaurant might already have coupons posted online, but you might want to consider offering a deal on Groupon or similar sites. These social media sites offer discounted services, which attract new customers to the business. However, the cons of such deals can outweigh the benefits. Whichever site you choose to host your deal gets a significant chunk of the profits, and you might be sacrificing your loyal customer base for people who are just after a low price. Content marketer Carla Dewing advises restaurants to limit the length of online deals and upsell other products that will keep customers coming back.

Leverage Instagram

Instagram for RestaurantsPhoto credit: Mr. T in DC via Compfight cc

Instagram might be a way to bring customers into your restaurant. Restaurant consultant Aaron Allen suggests leveraging the popular app to boost your restaurant’s business. He notes that restaurants can hold contests using Instagram photos and reward patrons with freebies or give customers a behind-the-scenes look at the kitchen to create a personal bond with customers. Allen emphasizes that Instagram is an excellent advertising tool that allows you to instantly engage with your clientele.

Host a Social Media-Related Event

social media eventsPhoto credit: mkhmarketing via Compfight cc

Bring more customers through the door by hosting a social media-related event. Marketer Vincent Ng proposes hosting a tweetup, which is a meeting organized on Twitter. Tweetups allow people with the same interests to meet face-to-face, so why shouldn’t that shared passion be your restaurant? Ng points out that the tweetup doesn’t only attract attention on the night of the event, but raises a business’ profile days before the meeting takes place. You could also create a Facebook event for all of your restaurant’s fans or followers, which will bring in both loyal customers and those who are curious about your brand.

Write a Blog

 restaurant blogsPhoto credit: pedro mg via Compfight cc

A blog can be a critical tool in your social media arsenal. It gives you a platform to share stories about your restaurant as well as publicize deals or menu changes. Blogs also give your customers a chance to communicate with you by posting comments on what you write. An article in Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business Review comments that blogs can improve your website’s search engine ranking and visibility. You do not need to spend a great deal of money on creating a blog; there are a number of free or low cost services available.

Communicate Through Email

email marketingPhoto credit: Sean MacEntee via Compfight cc

You might think that email is an old-fashioned tool for communicating with your customers. Email advertising campaigns can have quite a high return on investment if used properly. They are an excellent way to inform people about special events, promotions and special events. Just don’t use too many pictures, or send out emails too frequently. Marketers at the British PR firm Contently Managed suggest timing emails carefully; sending out a list of drink specials at 9:00 am on a Tuesday morning won’t attract as much notice as it would if you sent the same message at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. Also, customers can use email to communicate with you. They can send a message to reserve a table or ask questions about your restaurant.

Host a Podcast

 restaurant podcastPhoto credit: Colleen AF Venable via Compfight cc

A podcast is a series of audio, video, PDF or ePub files that users can download or stream. This platform lets restaurateurs share news about their business such as special events, changes in the menu and promotions. Recording and distributing a podcast might sound expensive and complicated, but the exact opposite is the case. In addition to a computer and internet connection, you need a microphone, a recorder/mixer, a soundcard, and audio software. If you want to interview people during your podcast, you’ll need a telephone connection. With the exception of the computer and the internet connection, all of the equipment can be purchased for less than $100.

Hold a Contest

 restaurant contestPhoto credit: kevinthoule via Compfight cc

Hosting a contest might also sound like an old-fashioned idea. However, social media puts an innovative spin on these friendly competitions. Restaurant owners can run a contest for every social media platform upon which they have a presence: they can run a “Twitter Follower of the Week,” a “Facebook Fan of the Week,” a “Pinterest Pinner of the Week,” etc. The contest could be as simple as having your followers posting family-friendly pictures of themselves enjoying your food, and others vote for their favorite photo.

This post was contributed by Rachel Levy Sarfin. Rachel is a contributing author to a Toronto catering company called Feast Your Eyes. She enjoys reading restaurant blogs and cooking.

10 Great Travel Apps for People on The Go

Technology has changed the way we travel. Mobile usage while on the go is constantly rising, and many new apps have emerged to make the travel process more seamless. Here are 10 great travel apps to check out:

1.      Tripomatic

Have you ever set off on the road not knowing what to do or see? Had a few hours to spare in a new country and not known how to spend your time? With Tripomatic, it does everything for you in seconds. As soon as you put in your location you will receive a list of nearby attractions, suggested trip plans and even trips planned by other users!

The simple interface makes it easy to use and will be valuable on days out.

2.      Dropbox

The ultimate tool to connect your mobile phone to your computer, laptop, netbook and any other tablet device with an internet connection, Dropbox is all you need. Want to share a picture, video or even some music? Put it on Dropbox and within minutes you can have access to that file on any other device.

It’s the perfect sharing app when you’re going on a long journey.

3.      Wi-Fi Finder

Ever needed the internet overseas but were concerned about charges made to your phone? With data roaming fees bordering on ridiculous, a Wi-Fi connection is essential for saving you money. Wi-Fi finder will help you hunt down the nearest source for a Wi-Fi connection anytime.

Best of all, if you download the location maps before your holiday, you can use this app offline, meaning you don’t need to use any mobile internet at all.

4.      Tipulator

Whichever restaurant, bar or diner you go to, it is common courtesy to leave a tip. Of course you don’t have to but the diverse rules in different continents can be tough to keep up with at times. In Asia, it is considered odd if you tip any money at all whereas Europe and North America encourage this.

With Tipulator, you can decide how much to give based on your overall spend.

5.      Fuel Monitor

Perfect for a car journey, this monitors how much fuel you’ll need for your trip. You can also edit the journey and add extra destinations, meaning you’ll know when and where to fuel-up your vehicle. The best bit about the app is the price, as it determines how much you will pay at a certain gas station.

It’s definitely worth checking out to save money.

6.      Google Maps

Google can be handy for pretty much everything and with their relatively new Google Places app for mobiles; your hunt for locations is made that much easier. It’s also a great alternative for a GPS, when coupled with Google Navigation.

For instance, when I was driving in France I was looking for a parking spot for a nearby restaurant. The trouble was, with new laws stating my GPS system cannot track speed cameras in the name of the law, I hadn’t taken mine with me. With a quick Google Places search, not only could I find the location of the restaurant, I could also find the route and nearby parking area.

7.      TripAdvisor

Written by users for users, the TripAdvisor app allows you to see exactly how the attraction, hotel or restaurant is perceived by previous visitors. With a more trustworthy opinion made by real people, you can always rely on TripAdvisor for the best information for tourists.

8.      FlightTrack

Worrying about remembering to bring all your essentials as well as ensuring your suitcase is not full of unnecessary things is hard enough. Having to remember your flight time, gate and plane number just makes it a whole deal worse. With FlightTrack, you can receive up-to-date, real-time flight plans as well as information on departure gates, delays and (hopefully not) cancellations.

Worry about one less thing this holiday.

9.     WhatsApp Messenger

Already regarded as the mobile substitute for Microsoft Messenger, WhatsApp has been taking the world by storm. By allowing you to send and receive messages for free, or for iPhone users a one-off payment; you can talk to family and friends across the world. Just requiring an internet connection, this is the best alternative to texting, which can cost a lot when in a different country.

10.  PhotoSynth

What’s a holiday without taking any photos? Your mobile camera may have a good enough camera but when there’s amazing sights that need to be seen in style, you could be left disappointed. PhotoSynth has all the added features of a digital camera but for your phone! Take panoramic shots all the way around and share your photographs on Facebook instantly.

There are many more travel apps you can find just right for you but for the very best, make sure you try out the list above. Happy holidays!

This article was contributed by Hiten Patel. Hiten is a travel enthusiast who has been to a handful of countries but has always wanted to explore the most exotic places. He has seen some wonderful things but I would love to experience more, allowing me to create my own unique travel stories. Follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

Q&A with “Talk to the Manager”

An ancient relic of the hospitality industry has been revived to help navigate the ever-important digital conversation between businesses and its customers. Talk To The Manager (TTTM) is the prodigy of the primitive comment card that used to adorn nearly all businesses who wanted to gain customer feedback.

TTTM doesn’t rely on metrics that traditional comment cards can measure. Instead, they’ve realized that a customer’s perception is priority number one and what better way to make a great impression than to let the customers ask the questions rather than default to a business’s pre-scripted survey. Along with TTTM’s analytics, customers help hone the exact tools that business can implement to improve the quality of their experience in real-time.

The way it works is: when you sign up with TTTM, you receive a unique phone number that customers can text their anonymous comments to whereupon the management staff can respond. The applications for this simple yet effective app can be used by any business to tailor their experience to meet customer expectations.

We recently had a chance to interview the creators of Talk To The Manager. Their business model is proof that tackling tough issues in the hospitality industry don’t always demand complex solutions.

What kinds of variables do you track besides the negative and positive feedback?

We’re currently building out a TON of new features in the dashboard that will provide much deeper analytics, but be displayed in an easy-to-understand (and actually use!) format. However, until they’re completed we’re unable to disclose exactly what they are, but keep an eye out in the coming months. They should all be released within the next three months (hopefully much sooner).

Your service seems like a more proactive approach to customer satisfaction opposed to reading about  performance and food on websites like Yelp. Do you think your service will facilitate not only better reviews, but also relationships that create repeat customers?

We definitely believe our service to be a proactive approach. And you hit the nail on the head, we built this specifically to help get better reviews and create brand loyalty. We don’t want to stop reviews, because that would be silly, they can be a great tool and are never going away. But we want businesses to get a chance to respond to issues privately before they end up on public review sites, that way they can resolve issues and get better reviews. A lot of people today are talking about online reputation management (ORM) but we like to think of our service as preventative online reputation management.

Have you considered building a space online where people who use your service get to post a review on your site instead of Yelp?

No. We don’t want to be another review site. The point of our service is to get private feedback directly to on-site management in real-time so they can resolve issues. We are all about privacy. We keep both the manager’s and the customer’s phone numbers hidden from each other, and all feedback is kept in our dashboard for private viewing by the business. We like to think of it as their diary. Sometimes you make mistakes and have bad days, hopefully with our service you get a chance to correct those mistakes and they don’t have to be written on a public review site for everyone to see.

On the other hand we have found that over 75% of the messages from customers are positive, so we have created a way for the business to share these positive anonymous customer testimonials on their Facebook and Twitter profiles if they would like, but that is their choice.

Disruptive technology is a big topic that’s discussed right now. Did you consider how your service would change the traditional conventions of how restaurants will run their kitchens and services?

In all fairness most things being created for the restaurant industry today would be disruptive if they were actually adopted. The restaurant tech industry has so much competition right now because there really hasn’t been too many tech advances adopted by the industry as a whole, so there are some MAJOR opportunities. That’s a big reason our technology is so simple. We’re not some new app you and your customers have to download, or some website you have to visit, instead we are a simple text messaging service that requires absolutely no set-up. At our most recent trade show we had an older gentleman who owned a chain of restaurants pull out an old flip-phone from probably 2003 and ask us if our service would work on his phone. He was kind of being snide and joking until we told him yes it would work no problem and his jaw about hit the floor. He has since signed up.

So I guess in answer to your question, yes, we absolutely understand the possibilities of how our service could ‘disrupt’ the industry, and have a ton of additional features/products in the pipeline that can help it get there, but for now we are only worried about proving to the restaurant industry how simple our tool is and that it is a tool that is ACTUALLY USEFUL.

Some argue that this trend is a step toward the digital obsession with people and their electronic devices. How do you respond to this type of commentary?

There’s really not much that can be said at this point to stop the digital revolution. A lot of people don’t like the fact that consumers are becoming so addicted to their devices. As a company we don’t have an opinion whether or not this is a good or bad thing, we just see opportunity and pursue it. We’re entrepreneurs.

Crambu: The Personal Hotel Concierge

Two inventive students at the University of Kentucky have been working on advancing the personal hotel concierge. Crambu is a text-message based concierge service that allows guests to customize their vacations from the simple touch of their own smartphones.

While many luxury properties already offer such services, Crambu is geared toward smaller hotels that may not already be implementing such services technologically.

It is currently being beta tested in 4 hotels in KY and IN: Embassy Suites Lexington (full service), Crowne Plaza Louisville (full service airport), Fairfield Inn- Princeton IN (limited service), and Gratz Park Inn Lexington (boutique). They are very different hotels with room quantities ranging from 40-588.

Hotel Concierge on iPad

Here’s how it works:
A guest enters their phone number on an iPad located at a check-in desk. A staff member then verifies the guests length of stay and room number on an iPad located behind the check-in desk.

crowne plaza front desk

The front desk of the Crowne Plaza Hotel features iPads, allowing guests to personalize their stay.

The guest then receives a text message with a custom link, which opens a web app personalized towards that guest. From the web app, a guest can make room requests for towels, noise complaints, roll-away beds, maintenance requests, etc.

They can also view general hotel and local information such as pool and spa hours, WiFi username and passwords, TV guides, frequently asked questions, local food and entertainment recommendations, restaurant directions and menus, local tour guides, etc.

Guests without smartphones can make room requests by text message, so this system works for any phone on the market.

Staff members respond to room requests and communicate with guests from the iPad located behind the check-in desk.

Crambu is actively seeking feedback to help better their product. Would you use a text messaging service to communicate with your hotel? What could make this service better? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Use Your Klout for Access to the Admirals Club

Klout and American Airlines (AA) have announced a partnership that allows social media influencers access to AA’s exclusive Admiral’s Club.

A Klout score over 55 will allow you to gain access to 37 of the airline’s lounges in 22 different cities, and you don’t have to fly American to be eligible, as would normally be the case. Guests reap a variety of benefits, ranging from complimentary wine to shower suites at select locations.

If you fall a little short of 55, don’t worry! You are entered into a drawing for the potential to win prizes including all expenses-paid trips to Seattle, along with products from other brands that have partnered with Klout such as Sony, Chevrolet, and Microsoft.

Klout utilizes social media analytics to measure your online social influence. Upon analyzing 400 variables throughout your multiple social networks, it determines a score between one and 100, with 100 representing the most influential.

It’s become more apparent that the hospitality industry has a lot to gain from social media influencers. Getting the right people into their exclusive lounges means more traffic to their websites via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, along with increased brand exposure.

Other airlines in need of significant image boosts would greatly benefit from partnering with Klout to gain insight on what kinds of amenities an individual takes into consideration before booking their next flight. Other mobile apps that ease flyers and create a more positive association with their airliner have already seen some headway.

With the decline of amenities in most airlines due to economic restraints, companies must resort to other avenues of representation or else suffer complacency. What better way to strengthen bonds between brands and their influencers than to put them in the cockpit of their initiatives?

What kinds of airline perks would you like to see offered next?

How Hotels Use Mobile Technology to Serve Customers Better

Smartphones are becoming ubiquitous across the world. They have made life so much easier and more convenient in many ways, and they are particularly useful for travelers. Smartphones become a companion on the road, providing us with up-to-date information and a source of entertainment. It is therefore no surprise that the hotel industry is taking notice of smartphones and using them to enhance the customer experience. But how exactly is the industry going about this?

Mobile Websites

The simplest way in which hotels are adapting their mobile strategies is through creating intuitive mobile websites. Because so many people now use their smartphones to access the web, it makes sense for businesses, including hotels, to be better prepared for mobile visitors.

Hotel guests are also likely to search for hotels online when they are on the road and do not have access to a computer. By making sure that their websites are optimized for mobile devices, hotels can make the experience of finding their hotel and booking a room a lot more convenient.

QR Codes

Technologies like QR codes are now being put to use all over the place, and hotels are not missing out on these. QR codes provide a way to quickly use a smartphone to scan a code and the user is then sent directly to a web page to get more information.

This is being put to use by hotels in areas such as their restaurants. In some hotels, customers can now find QR codes next to menu items, which they can scan to immediately get more information about the ingredients and the preparation of the food.

Smartphone Payment

Paying via smartphones is set to become one of the biggest developments in the industry over the coming years. Making payments using NFC is still in its infancy, but it is easy to see how they will take off in the near future. This is particularly useful in hotels because travelers often don’t want to carry around large amounts of cash, and paying by phone can help them to control their spending.

smartphone technology for hotels

Image credit: http://www.hotelmanager.net

Smartphone Keys

Smartphones are even being used in place of room keys in some hotels, and this is a technology that is sure to catch on more in the future. By getting rid of room keys and allowing guests to use their smartphones to enter and lock their doors, it is just one more way in which the customer experience can be improved.

Complete Room Control

Some hotels are now taking the idea of smartphone use in hotels to a new level. Using branded apps for devices running on iOS and Android, they are coming up with solutions that allow their guests to control almost any aspect of their stay using just their mobile devices.

These include:

  • Shutting the curtains in the room
  • Turning down the lights
  • Adjusting the thermostat
  • Changing the mood settings
  • Changing the TV channel
  • Activating the lifts
  • Getting access to local information
  • Ordering room service

The Future of Hotels

Smartphone technology is being rapidly adapted by hotels across the world in order to provide their customers with a better experience, and it is easy to see how this technology will become a lot more widespread in the future as technology improves. However, the main concern for hotels is that they manage to use smartphones to enhance the customer experience without using them as a replacement for high-quality personal service. If they get this balance right, smartphone integration in hotels is almost certain to improve the experience for all guests.

Chris McMahon is a service industry technology consultant. His articles mainly appear on service blogs where he enjoys sharing his expertise. Visit the Marriott.com website and see how they use technology to reach their customer base.

Reservation Startup Treovi Launches Mobile-Friendly Beta 2.0

Swiss-based Treovi.com, the first truly 100% no commissions online hotel reservation system, has launched a new beta of its website.

Five months after its successful launch, the team has had time to study the feedback and usage data Treovi’s early adopters users, allowing them to help make reserving hotels convenient and fast.

Hotel search listings and the front page has been completely revamped, with increased support for mobile devices.

Treovi Hotel Search Engine

The main highlights of this new version are:

  • A sleeker and more consistent design, with even greater emphasis on the functions that are used most.
  • Greater optimisation for mobile devices – the website now incorporates a design that is responsive to lower resolutions seen on mobile devices. Touchfriendly buttons are also rendered automatically. Treovi’s future will revolve around developing a balance between aesthetics and functionality for all resolutions, including mobiles, tablets and PCs.
  • Hotel Favorites – users signed into a Treovi account can now “favorite” hotels. Favorited hotels will appear in there account for easy reference in the future.
  •  User accounts – users can now see all their reservations in one place, view their dates in one calendar and see favourited hotels. This paves the way for greater personal account integration with social networking sites.

“We are really pleased to introduce these changes” said Michal Wrobel, cofounder. “A website optimized for all possible screen resolutions is paramount. We continue to carefully study our own design and those of others to build an unmatched user interface that users will look forward to using. These new aesthetics are combined with our new user account functionality, that will allow us to create game-changing tools and offers for registered users. Next in line is Facebook integration, of course.”

Founded early 2012, Treovi is a Swiss travel startup that provides hoteliers and guests with a totally free booking channel online. This bright new concept in online travel booking will lead the way to a new era of better travel and a major change in the hospitality industry.

Startup Levels the Online Ordering Playing Field For Independent Restaurants

ChowNow, the social, mobile and web-based online ordering platform for restaurants, recently received an influx of capital that will be used to launch new products and expand national operations.

Big players like Dominos and Chipotle have seen a big boom in users and profitability through online ordering over the past year. But for smaller restaurants, online ordering that doesn’t send customers to a third party website (GrubHub, Seamless) was a confusing and unattainable proposition.

ChowNow is helping level the playing field for smaller restaurants through innovation. As the pioneer of Facebook ordering, ChowNow has created opportunity for all types of restaurants by integrating online ordering into social, mobile and viral spaces.

ChowNow Restaurant App

ChowNow is an online ordering system for the foodservice industry that uses branded mobile and social media tools to expand restaurant’s capabilities and customer reach.

Removing the middleman:
For many restaurants, removing the middleman and keeping customers on their own website or Facebook page was the impetus for buying ChowNow. “If a restaurant sends a customer to a portal (GrubHub, etc.), it would be like Delta sending customers to Kayak or Priceline to buy tickets,” said Webb. “The vast majority of to-go orders come from repeat customers so it’s not logical to pay 15% to a portal if someone was going to order from the restaurant anyway.”

Burgeoning client base:
ChowNow’s diverse and burgeoning client base is a result of high demand, fast setup, affordability and ease of use. After launching in May 2012, ChowNow is already used by hundreds of restaurants including large chains like CiCi’s Pizza and Ground Round, and smaller
local mom and pop restaurants. This winter ChowNow is powering mobile food ordering at two ski resorts, Mammoth Mountain and Homewood Mountain Resort, so that skiers and snowboarders can order meals before they ski down the slopes.

Upcoming expansion and innovations:
Much of the new funding will be used to launch new products and expand national operations, with an anticipated 1,000 new restaurants in the first half of 2013. Always evolving, ChowNow has three new features soon to be announced: catering (currently in beta), expanded CRM capabilities and marketing enhancements like push notifications.

Series A Funding Announcement:
ChowNow has raised $3 million in Series A funding. The round was led by returning investor GRP Partners along with Daher Capital, Double M Capital, Karlin Ventures, and Velos Partners. From Steven Dietz, Partner at GRP: “GRP works with entrepreneurs solving important challenges for many people. ChowNow has the potential to significantly improve the way restaurants communicate with their customers. This is a large opportunity and the innovative team at ChowNow has already begun delivering on their promises to restaurants and their customers. There is an exciting future ahead for this company.”

Christopher Webb, Co-Founder and CEO of ChowNow comments: “We’re excited to have a mix of returning and new investors. It’s an honor to have such a distinguished group of names backing us, and we’re excited about what this funding will allow in terms of our innovations pipeline. We’re always looking for new ways to help restaurants grow.”

Glyder: Simple, Beautiful and Mobile

As mobile marketing becomes increasingly fruitful, it’s important for businesses to stay on top of trends and make sure the mobile-savvy customer is able to access any information they may need in a fast, clear and concise manner.

Last week, Glyder debuted their iPhone application that gives small businesses everything they need to reach their customers. Designed from the ground up for very small businesses, Glyder enables business owners to communicate with their customers anytime and anywhere, on any social platform, in 5 minutes or less.

Glyder provides:

  • Message Templates & Images: Glyder templates provide best practices for customer communication and remove the friction for starting messages.
  • Professional Design: Glyder visual styles make great design accessible to any business owner. 14 color and layout variations are included free.
  • Automated Rendering & Distribution: The Glyder rendering platform formats and distributes the message to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Email, Text Message, MailChimp and Passbook in one easy step. Additional platforms coming soon!

Prior to starting Glyder, co-founders Alan Wells (formerly of Zynga) and Glenn Allen (Co-founder of OpenTable) provided design and marketing services to small businesses. The majority of these businesses couldn’t afford the professional design or marketing services they offered, and for those that could, the time required to interact with a design or marketing professional was a barrier.

Wells and Allen also found that independent businesses owners need to do things on their own schedule and don’t want to rely on someone else. Most business owners recognize that social networks and media are important, but they don’t know where to start. After meeting hundreds of business owners and seeing the same issues over and over again, it became clear that small businesses need a better way to connect and communicate with their customers – that’s why they built Glyder.

Why “Glyder?” Allen explains that when they first started making what would later be called Glyders, they noticed they really looked a lot like a traditional Flyer. But Flyers are old and boring, while Glyders were so smooth, easy to put together and send. So, instead of Flying which uses a lot of energy, gas, etc., they were Gliding. Hence, the digital form of a Flyer easily became Glyder.

Glyder has several features that sets it apart from any existing tool. First, it’s mobile. You can do it all from your iPhone or iPad. It’s also useful content creation. Templates are available based content approach, and the number of template options available will continue to expand. Furthermore, Glyder offers more distribution platforms than any other app, and they’re positioned to add more constantly and be the single source to create and send your message from your iPhone to ANY platform you use.

Restaurant benefit from the app as it allows them to speed up everything they are doing with marketing and social media. Because the app is so smooth, businesses using Glyder will likely use the app often, and be able to engage customers at a deeper level.

In addition, some restaurants might find benefits in allowing their staff to participate in their marketing efforts, and Glyder allows them to do that and give the personal touch right in the moment of a meaningful customer exchange.

What features of Glyder sound most appealing?