Episode Summary

Dawn Gillis, CTO of Freebirds World Burrito, kicks off our new CTO series and we couldn’t find a better pioneer in our space. 

In true trailblazin’ in fashion, she joined the fast-casual concept and took the brand by storm, revamping the entire technology stack — including POS, KDS, Back of House, and Online ordering – in under a year. 

Dawn shares all her secrets and strategies for achieving the ambitious technology platform upgrade — from building stakeholder buying and designing a strong, scalable foundation; to selecting the right partners for their brand. 

And the early results she’s achieved for the multi-unit Mexican concept are beyond impressive!


🍽 Name: Dawn Gillis, CTO, Freebirds World Buritto

Key Insights

🌶️ Early results from the tech refresh. After integrating Qu’s POS and KDS solutions, including direct third-party ordering integrations, Freebirds has experienced significant labor savings & increased sales + revenue opportunities:

  • 98% reduction in training time for new team members to learn the system (from 80 hrs to 2 hrs  
  • 97% decrease in online deactivations, leading to more online sales

🌶️ How to align your tech refresh with brand values. When Freebirds began their tech refresh journey they had 5 main points they wanted to accomplish… 

  • A frictionless guest experience
  • Improved loyalty experience 
  • Increased use of biometrics where possible 
  • Reduction in training
  • Minimal interruption

We took the time to figure out what we wanted the Freebirds brand to be and how technology would align with that vision.”

🌶️ How to sell your stakeholders on a new tech vision. There’s a common thread of resistance toward new technology among restaurant operators. The fear of the unknown often keeps them from making critical steps forward in tech advancement. According to Dawn, getting stakeholders onboard involves sharing your vision, listening, explaining, and tying the message together. “Once they understand what we were trying to address for them, we were able to take them on the journey.”

🌶️ Why MACH matters. MACH stands for…

  • Microservices: Flexibility and ability to leverage working components of software solutions in different ways.
  • API-first: Ability to integrate products and solutions across your environment.
  • Cloud-native: Scalability. The ability to quickly grow with your brand.
  • Headless. Consistent data across your enterprise and multiple platforms.

🌶️Common barriers for CTOs and how to change them. Restaurant CTOs can often get lulled into the comfort of the past culture and not push the envelope for change. But according to Dawn, uncomfortability is a good thing. Uncomfortably is the reason why people get into that space of innovation. It’s critical for a CTO to be strong enough to take charge and have conversations on how things can get done from a tech perspective.” 

Connect with Dawn on LinkedIn

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