Waitr (waitrapp.com), one of Opportunity Machine’s most rapidly growing companies, is changing the face of innovation in South Louisiana. It’s created something that is making its customers’ lives easier and making them say, “Wow!” Waitr Inc. is an innovative online and mobile software solution company reinventing the restaurant dining experience. Waitr connects restaurants to diners through a mobile smartphone menu and digital marketing platform for iPhone and Android. The company’s ordering platform allows users to browse, order and pay for carryout, delivery or dine-in directly from their smartphone.
We wanted to know more about the Waitr team, so we sat down with Chris Meaux, CEO, and Jude Mire, Lafayette city manager, to get to know them better.
BARKER: When did the light bulb go off that led you to create Waitr?
MEAUX: It all started in 2009. I thought there was an opportunity to have people order dinner on a website (this was before smartphone apps) and select a time to have it delivered. I tested a concept in Texas that I called Meaux’s 2 Geaux. People would order from our online menu, and we would cook the food and deliver it to them at the requested time. It worked really well, but we could never find an affordable commercial kitchen to roll out the concept. In the fall of 2013, my team’s pitch for Waitr won the startup competition at Startup Weekend in Florida. That’s when Waitr was born.
BARKER: What are some of the challenges that caught you off guard with running a tech startup?
MIRE: I knew there would be long hours with little reward in the beginning. The surprise for me has been how mentally challenging it has been — working relentlessly to stay ahead of the tech curve, meeting the needs and wants of our restaurants, finding great team members, developing talent and growing markets. Needless to say, it’s a lot of things to think about.
BARKER: What’s your best advice for getting down to business when things are tough?
MEAUX: Surround yourself with great people. When things get tough, it’s usually too tough for one person to handle alone. In these moments a great team can be invaluable to finding solutions for tough problems. When Waitr’s growth started to double every two weeks, we didn’t have the right infrastructure to handle such rapid growth. Our team pulled together to solve the problem quickly. This allowed us to continue the rapid growth we still see today.
BARKER: What’s the best way to learn and improve in a startup environment?
MEAUX: It’s critical to have a mentor. In addition, you have to become an expert in your field, learn everything about your area of business.
MIRE: Become a great listener. The answers are in front of you if you know what to look for and stay focused on the goal — which is to make the best product or service available.
BARKER: What is the best advice you have been given?
MEAUX: Stay above the noise. You have to find out on your own if your idea is great or terrible. Your customers are the only people who can determine this, so build an MVP (minimum viable product) and see if your customers will use it or buy it. If they like it, then don’t worry about what other people say; just sell more of it to your customers.
BARKER: Who are your biggest influencers right now?
MEAUX: The biggest influence in my life has been my dad. He taught me that no matter how hard things get you can always overcome them if you just keep going. I learned that things in life and business may not always turn out the way that you thought, but they always lead you to the next thing whatever that may be. I also think it’s important to surround yourself with positive influencers, and I have a great group of advisers that I lean on for advice very often.
BARKER: Best piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs ready to get started?
MEAUX: The value is not in your idea.
The value is in the execution of your idea. Millions of great ideas go to the grave every day. Surround yourself with the people and knowledge that leads you to great execution and make your idea a reality.
Zachary Barker is executive director of the Opportunity Machine, a LEDAbacked initiative that focuses on cultivating Lafayette’s entrepreneurial and technologybased industries.