Dave Gasparine, like many franchise owners, was sick of the complications that came with marketing his businesses. Frustration had swept over his peers, partners and 21 franchise team members: despite all the experience among them and all the marketing tools they tried, none had found a solution that actually worked.
He turned problem into profit by creating Epoxy, a user-friendly smartphone app that merges restaurant marketing, customer loyalty and overall simplicity.
“Business is a bucket and customers are the water that fills it. So many tools focus on adding hoses, but ignore any leaks the bucket might have,” Gasparine begins. “Customer loyalty, the water already in the bucket, is the most important thing. Epoxy is the glue that holds the bucket together.”
Speaking with a directed tone and a warm smile, Gasparine commands the presence of a driven entrepreneur. Holding an engineering degree and 10 years in the hotel industry, he develops his work integrate his hospitality experience into the business world.
The problem came with marketing.
“When you’re a small business owner, managing marketing and PR is over your head,” Gasparine said. “The stress of adopting so many programs into a restaurant was…an extra business on its own. There are so many different concepts, but no way to combine them all into one.”
Every restaurant owner he talked to was going through the same pains. “It added up to the marketing companies enjoying all the benefits and the owners gaining nothing,” he said.
Each marketing campaign held great potential, but shortcomings within each one led to failure. Gasparine created Epoxy to combine the best of every major restaurant marketing service.
The tagline is “All stuck together in one app.”
“Our vision for businesses is to create a system that owners can adopt with ease to alleviate the headaches of running a restaurant,” Gasparine said. “And for users, we’ve created a marketing platform that customers actually enjoy using and will recommend to others.”
The way Epoxy works is simple, providing simultaneous mutual benefit to restaurant owners and their customers. When a restaurant signs up, they offer an initial discount for customers, as well as a digital punch card as a loyalty incentive [i.e. buy 9 sandwiches and the 10th one is free]. The restaurant in turn receives a QR code [the scannable squares for smartphones], whereby customers claim deals and ‘punch’ their digital cards.
Customers find restaurants on Epoxy’s search engine, neatly organized by category, location, and service among other options. Restaurants each have their own page, containing essential information such as address, menu, phone number and pin, which owners can customize for exact location [i.e. exactly where you are in a shopping mall or busy intersection].
Once users pull up a discount, Epoxy turns the phone into a scanner, which scans the restaurant’s QR code on site. The roles are reversed intentionally: by holding onto one QR code, restaurants ensure that discounts can’t be duplicated or sent to non-users.
The process takes about 20 seconds per customer. Epoxy’s design team comes from Apple and Fandango, and built the app with business owners’ need for ease in mind.
Epoxy promotes restaurants through an enhanced word-of-mouth process. Users can send discount offers to friends. If those friends use the discount, the person who sent it receives an extra punch on their digital punch card.
“It works out for everyone,” Gasparine said. “Customers get great deals and incentive to return, restaurants gain loyal customers, and Epoxy reaches more users, all through the same process.”
For restaurant owners, one of the app’s most profound benefits is its data tracking. Every time a user sends or claims a deal, the data goes right to the restaurant. Owners can see how many customers have claimed deals, how often they return, how many times customers recommended the restaurant to others, and the frequency in which those recommendations turned into paying customer visits.
“Printing costs for paper punch cards alone is more than $50,” Gasparine said. “Text services run more than $200 a month. This is going to save businesses a lot of money and even more headache.”
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.