June 2, 2022
After struggling with its website vendor, the group made famous by Hugo Ortega took ownership & started to flourish.
In 2015, H-Town Restaurant Group in Houston, TX, had four websites managed by a New York-based contractor. With 1,630 miles separating them, the long-distance relationship created issues: delayed menu updates, infrequent website maintenance, clashing design aesthetics and unclear technical ownership. For a restaurant group with high expectations — and rightfully so, given the multiple James Beard nominations of co-owner Hugo Ortega — issues like that needed to be corrected.
"We were not satisfied with our situation," said H-Town Director of Human Resources & IT Taj Walker. "People were looking for us online, and the site was not aligned with our operations. We had to look for an avenue that gave us control of the websites.”
In 2016, that desire brought H-Town Restaurant Group to BentoBox. Within months, it launched four websites with brand-enhancing design, valuable marketing features and a user-friendly platform for staff to manage. In the six years since, H-Town has continued to grow its footprint with several new concepts — and BentoBox has continued to grow with it.
8 total websites (6 for restaurants, 2 for the master brand)
$1.39 million direct online ordering revenue
$417k saved in commission fees through direct online ordering
$513k online catering revenue
$134k online catering revenue during 2021 holidays
The relationship between H-Town and its New York-based contractor wasn’t working. Managing the website was too slow, too expensive, too error-prone. It wanted a centralized platform that was simple enough for one team member to manage, but it needed ease-of-use to come alongside a stellar guest experience.
To ensure it got the best of both worlds, H-Town worked closely with BentoBox’s dedicated Onboarding Manager, who listened to its vision and walked it through design and setup. As the restaurant group has grown to require more websites — and expanded from one to three end users — the onboarding process has been vital to its success.
"It's been so easy [to launch new websites]," says Walker. "I know what I need to gather and the tools needed to start. I hand it over to our Onboarding Manager, and in a week or so, you get a preview and finalize things from there.”
Once things are finalized, the BentoBox platform allows staff to quickly manage all eight websites from any location. They can edit menus, monitor inventory, pull reports and implement pop-up alerts to make announcements on the homepage. Between the user-friendly dashboard and the Onboarding Manager, they are empowered to take complete control of the website. No delays, no back-and-forth, no headaches.
It wasn’t just control that brought H-Town Restaurant Group to BentoBox. It was quality. Many of H-Town’s concepts focus on specific Mexican regional cuisines, and the early stages of developing each brand include a trip to study the culture and land of that region. This attention-to-detail is woven into the fabric of each H-Town brand — and likewise, it needs to be woven into the fabric of each H-Town website.
BentoBox makes this easy for several reasons. First, it pairs H-Town with professional web designers during the onboarding process. H-Town provides photography and inspiration from its regional trips, and the design team crafts a concept that matches its vision while adhering to digital best practices.
Second, BentoBox websites are designed to be mobile-responsive. This means the designs work just as well on computers as they do on tablets and phones, which is crucial since nearly 60% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. Even restaurant-specific features such as online ordering and event management provide an optimized mobile experience on BentoBox — which isn’t always true for sites built on traditional website platforms.
“We've never had a bad design or bad experience,” Walker says of the BentoBox design process. This includes the experience of expanding past restaurants and creating separate websites for Chef Ortega and the whole hospitality group. These new sites, which serve as information hubs rather than revenue generators, have allowed H-Town to create a more expansive and cohesive online footprint.
Control and design initially brought H-Town Restaurant Group to BentoBox, but as the companies have evolved — and as BentoBox has added new commerce features to its websites — so has the partnership.
During the 2019 holiday season, H-Town tested BentoBox Pre-Order & Catering at three of its restaurants — Backstreet Cafe, Hugo’s and Caracol — and drove more than $43,000 in sales during November and December. However, that was just the tip of the iceberg: In 2020, during the heart of COVID-19 restrictions, it drove more than $152,000 in holiday catering sales. In 2021, when holiday routines largely returned to normal, it still drove more than $133,000.
Direct online ordering also proved vital during COVID-19, when indoor dining restrictions forced H-Town to rely on takeout and delivery. It launched with BentoBox's online ordering platform in May 2020 and saw an immediate impact. In the first six months alone, online ordering drove more than $556,000 in revenue, an average of roughly $93,000 per month. And because diners placed those orders directly through H-Town’s websites, it didn’t have to pay steep commissions as it did on third-party marketplaces.
Texas revoked indoor dining restrictions quicker than other states did, but direct online ordering continues to contribute to H-Town's business. In 2021, it still drove more than $540,000 in online ordering revenue, with Walker saying it’s especially helpful “to support events and specials, and things we’re trying to bill as to-go.”
In addition to selling food online, H-Town websites diversify revenue with merchandise stores. Especially with a revered chef like Ortega, the ability to sell online cookbooks, along with gift sets and seasonal items, can help boost profits at the margins.
The synergy between H-Town Restaurant Group and BentoBox has been valuable in many areas. As a result, Walker calls using BentoBox "a no-brainer" when the group plans new concepts. "BentoBox knows what restaurants need," she continues.
In total, H-Town's websites prove that despite the complexities of restaurant groups, they do not have to choose between beautiful design, smooth operations and maximized revenue. With the right approach and platform, they can have all three.
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