Chisme Cantina is a thriving neighborhood hot-spot serving up vegan-friendly tacos, burritos, bowls and sides in San Francisco’s Lower Nob Hill neighborhood. Founded by Ray Shlimon and Na'el Shehade, Chisme continues to innovate across the business. We spoke with Ray Shlimon about his approach to smart system integrations that increase customer satisfaction, improve operational efficiency, and help grow his bottom line.
of business is delivery
stars on Uber Eats
offers and promotions
Evolving with the times
Chisme (pronounced ‘chis-may’) Cantina opened in September 2017—“the most stressful day of my life” says Ray, and catered to emerging lifestyle trends, including keto and vegan cuisine. “Back then, our dine-in to delivery ratio was 80/20. During the pandemic, we went to 100% which required a hard look at our technology stack to meet the online demand. Now our orders split 50/50, delivery and dine-in.”
With an average order value of $31, the 60-seat fast casual restaurant reaches well beyond the immediate neighborhood to the broader San Francisco population that lives within a five-mile radius of the restaurant.
“The shift towards delivery has had a major influence on our business decisions, starting with the menu,” Ray explains. “I’m removing any item that doesn’t travel well—like the shrimp tacos. They’re delicious, and were a hit for five years. But customers were telling us they tended to arrive soggy, so they had to go.”
This change to the menu was driven primarily by insights Shilmon gleaned from customer reviews on delivery orders. “I love the way Uber Eats lets me respond to customer reviews in real-time. But you can’t just respond, you have to react.” says Ray.
Growing the business with Uber Eats Manager
“I’m constantly on Uber Eats Manager. It’s how I figure out what’s going on,” Ray says of the merchant portal that’s at the heart of his operation. “It’s everything I need—all in one place.” Intuitive and easy to use, Uber Eats Manager allows Ray to single-handedly make data-driven decisions that make sense to his bottom line.
“I always go to Feedback first to see the customer reviews. That’s critical. And then to Top Eats. as I’m a little obsessed about maintaining my Top Eats status, because it directly impacts my order volume But it’s the Performance tab I look at most.” That’s where ratings, order numbers and accuracy reports allow Ray to see what’s working, and what needs his attention to improve..
“I’m a bit of a data nerd,” Ray admits, “but the reports are general enough so that anyone can understand what they’re looking at.”
Uber Eats Manager is the only portal that has allowed Ray to set up auto-reply so that five-star reviews automatically trigger a coupon and personalized thank you. “I answer every single review myself, and I give everybody credit. I even appreciate bad feedback. It’s how I fine-tune the operation.”
Tools and support to grow faster
Uber Eats is the only 3rd party delivery partner where Ray has a personal and ongoing relationship with his account manager. “Matt and I have a great rapport. I can reach out anytime. And he usually gets back to me within minutes. He also reaches out to tell me about any new features and promotions.”
Speaking of promotions, Uber Eats Manager makes it easy to test, launch and manage promotions and loyalty programs on Uber Eats. “And the best thing is I can see the results in real time. Coupons, free delivery, BOGO deals… I’m willing to try anything. Worst case it doesn’t work and I try something else.” says Ray.
Uber Eats remits its own sales tax. “As a small business owner in charge of every department, that’s a godsend.”
“Uber Eats manager makes it easy for me to see if my online promotions are working, if sales are going up, and if the ROI is there to keep them going. I’ll try just about anything to see if it works. You have to get creative to break through. When it works, I just keep it running.”
Ray Shilmon, Owner Chisme, SF
System Integration helps Chisme improve service
Before Covid, Ray and his team juggled up to three different tablets—one for each delivery partner—requiring them to manually transfer orders to their POS system. But it was clunky and inefficient, and led to errors in customer service.
With smart systems integrations in place, Ray has boosted operational efficiency and helped improve order accuracy by 50% or more. All online orders from Uber Eats and other 3rd party delivery solutions—and from Chisme’s own website—are now funneled through an online order aggregator and sent directly into their POS system. This removes the need for any manual order management.
"While menu updates are now done through the online order aggregator system, everything else—reviews, data, promotions—that I take care of with Uber Eats Manager."
The streamlining process took six months of trial and error to set up. And Ray admits it was overwhelming at times. Like the two weeks when orders for Chisme’s signature coconut horchata were AWOL. “Customers were ordering the drink but we had no idea. I got so many bad reviews from those missing drinks that I temporarily lost my Top Eats status!”
But the growing pains were well worth it given the gains in productivity and accuracy. Today, Ray’s fully-integrated POS and 3rd party delivery systems help Chisme Cantina operate with fewer errors that help maintain their much-coveted “Best Overall Rating” and 4.9 stars.
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