Outside of New York, there's a lot of options, but New York, there aren't that many.
[00:05:10] Josh Sharkey:
No, there isn't. I mean, there's some good, like, ingredients. Persian food's very ingredient driven. Have you ever had the White Mustache Yogurt? Mm.
[00:05:19] Krystle Mobayeni:
No. Oh my God, I have heard about this. I have somebody else I think told me about this.
[00:05:24] Josh Sharkey:
It's insanely good, especially the sour cherry one, which is sour cherries in Persain cuisine. And then, yeah, I think there's a date one that's really good. Yeah. Yeah, it's really good.
[00:05:32] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah. A little fun fact with sour cherries. When I was a kid, there was this orchard nearby, you know, you could go apple picking and they would have pick your own thing, and they had like sour cherries.
And we would go like every summer we'd go and it was like sour cherry season. We'd go and pick tons of sour cherries, you know, and they're not, as a kid, especially, they're not that good to eat on their own. It's mostly like used for cooking and stuff. But my dad would get like a big handle of vodka and he would put all the sour cherries in there and let it sit for however long.
And that was like his thing. It was like, people would come over and he'd give them like sour cherry vodka. As I started getting like old enough when I was like poking around there I would You know, in my teenage years, take some of the sour. You could just eat the sour cherries that were just filled with vodka.
It was like taking a shot. It was fun. I don't think he even knows that. So sorry, dad.
[00:06:28] Josh Sharkey:
Well, maybe he'll find out now. There's also like a pretty famous rice with sour cherries, right? Yeah. Where did you grow up by the way?
[00:06:35] Krystle Mobayeni:
In Maryland, outside of DC.
[00:06:38] Josh Sharkey:
Oh, really? What part?
[00:06:35] Krystle Mobayeni:
Like Katome, Brockville, Montgomery County area.
Are you familiar with that area?
[00:06:42] Josh Sharkey:
I grew up in Northern Virginia and spent a lot of time in Maryland. Yeah.
[00:06:47] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah. So that's probably how you know so much about Persians because there's a lot of Persian food there, especially Northern Virginia.
[00:06:56] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. Yeah. A lot in Northern Virginia and that, and you know, Old Bay and crabs.
[00:07:02] Krystle Mobayeni:
I love crabs.
[00:07:03] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. I know. I mean, I still like, my dad was a. He was an attorney and then he turned into a, a salesman. He sold like nuts and candies and things. We would have to go to Bethesda every week to pick up the haul, you know, of all the, I worked for this company called Barcelona Nuts. It was in Bethesda.
It was the warehouse. And he would always take me for like sheet crab soup and, and things around there. So that's what I'm like. Crab stuff you get in Maryland. So good. Yeah, so much fun. I promise we're gonna get to BentoBox, but you have two kids now. How old are they?
[00:07:32] Krystle Mobayeni:
I have a daughter who's three, a little over three, and I just had a son and so he's five months.
[00:07:40] Josh Sharkey:
Oh, so you're in the weeds.
[00:07:43] Krystle Mobayeni:
We're in it. It's tough. It's really tough, you know.
[00:07:45] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, it's no joke.
[00:07:47] Krystle Mobayeni:
We have plenty of help, but it's, you know, the guilt. I'm just, I'm not working, you know, or sleeping. I have to be spending time with my kids, you know, but like they're fine, but I just feel like it's just, it's full on.
[00:08:01] Josh Sharkey:
You know, I have two kids. I have a two year old and a four year old and every waking moment that I'm not working on my business, I'm. You know, I'm with them. It's tough. There is that sense of guilt when you're not, you know, when you're not with them. So you're now 10 years in, I mean, BentoBox was founded in 2013 before that. Can you imagine what would it be like today with having these two kids?
[00:08:25] Krystle Mobayeni:
Oh, I don't know how you're doing it. The way that I was working from like 2013 until like, you know, 2020 before my daughter was born. It was all the time, all week, it was just, you know, there was, didn't have to be home at a certain time, like, stay at the office until 9pm if I wanted to, I get, like, my best work done, like, really early in the morning, like, 5, 6am, that, that's out the window, I, I have a lot of respect for, like, you and other people who are able to, do both simultaneously. It's so hard.
[00:09:01] Josh Sharkey:
It's hard regardless. And obviously with the startup, it definitely makes it doubly hard. I want a support group for it. I don't know any way around it. You know, it's you, you wake up at five, you try to get some work done. You never know when the kid's going to wake up. Might be six, might be five thirty, might be six thirty.
Yeah. You know, work till they have dinner time. Do dinner with them. Seven 30, go back to work. Do that all over until, you know, midnight. It's. It's a grind.
[00:09:25] Krystle Mobayeni:
It's a grind. It's a grind. How do you balance the two?
[00:09:29] Josh Sharkey:
I'll be honest. That's, I really, it's a struggle. I feel like I'm just in a constant state of just, oh yeah, this is just the madness that it is. And I have almost had to kind of accept it. The harder part, honestly, is, you know, with my wife is I want to be sensitive to it. So, yeah. I also have a wife, so whenever, you know, when it is the kids and the business and then, oh yeah, we should have a date night and I should spend some time with her, you know, when work is quote unquote done for the day.
And it's tough. Yeah, it's tough. I think the benefit is, I mean, you know this better than anybody is with a startup. It's just, there's never like a time where you're like, oh yeah, now I'm good. Now I can step back and it's all good now. It's just a constant, you know, rollercoaster of ups and downs and you just have to be okay with all of them.
Having kids helps to have a little bit of, give you a little bit more perspective around, you know, yeah, you know, we're going to make this work. It's all good. But I also have, you know, this other part of life that's really important. So I think that's helpful as a parent. Now, you know, being a child of immigrants and you being an entrepreneur and starting companies and like, how do you think about, they're still young, so you probably don't, you're not like, you know, giving them the talk about life. If you think about that now, like, does it affect how you parent? Yeah,
[00:10:46] Krystle Mobayeni:
I, you know, I had this like immense pressure to like make good on like the opportunities that were created for me and I watched, you know, my, my parents both work so, so, so hard and I. Really well, I'm like, I really want that same struggle and that same pressure for my kids, you know, because they're really, you know, profoundly impacted how I approach life, but I'm like, man, are they going to have it too easy?
You know, they're not going to know, you know, and so I don't know the right ways to yet to instill those values. My husband and I talk a lot about being like deliberate about values and like writing them down and then really making sure we like talk about them and create rituals and practices and ways we communicate that really reflects like.
These values, we're not that far into it yet, but I think that's one way that we're trying to make sure that how we may be lucky enough to live our life now, doesn't become like the value system, you know, the value system is just much more deliberate. So it's definitely something I think about a lot.
[00:12:03] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. Like how do you build resilience? When it's not organically forced upon someone, you know, I think about like in the kitchens, we used to just work a hundred hour weeks and shift pay. And that's just what it was. You were forced to sort of, you know, grind it out. You know, it's different now. And I think about, you know, as a parent.
Yeah, my kids have way more than I had and your kids definitely did it as well. And do you ever just think about like, you know what, I could give them this. I'm just not. I'm not going to.
[00:12:34] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah. It's so hard. I mean, yeah. I mean, I think we definitely try to put some boundaries. You have to, I feel like you have to just do it through and through. You can't just like put it on the kids, you know, and then you're living one way and putting some other set of expectations on your kids. So now we're, I think that's where just being like deliberate about how you want to raise your kids and then making decisions that like reflect that is something we're trying to do.
I can't say we're fully doing it yet, but we're trying it. Yeah. But you have the advantage like at two and four, are they? Playing with each other and keeping each other company.
[00:13:16] Josh Sharkey:
That literally started like two months ago and holy shit, it's like a game changer, you know, because you can actually walk away for five seconds.
They'll start fighting eventually, but it's a game changer. Where you're at right now is Kind of the hardest because you just you just had double duty all the time and you can't one you can't like put down You can't walk away and it's really hard. Yeah Yeah. Yeah. Totally. Well, it sounds like you and your husband are a really good team.
I watched a talk you did with FirstMark, really incredible investors, and you, and you, you mentioned that he's one of your biggest inspirations.
[00:13:49] Krystle Mobayeni:
I think we're an amazing team and I feel like, I don't think I could have done the stuff that I did with just anyone from the perspective of like, he was just very supportive and like genuinely wanted me to like succeed and be great.
You know, he really wanted me to be great at any cost, like to his detriment, whatever it was like, and I think that was having someone like that in my life was just so important.
[00:14:19] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. Especially for, if you're building a company and a company like Bento, it's almost like it's hard to do it without that.
[00:14:28] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah. And he's an investor now, but he had built a company too. So he also knew, you know, he knew what it took. So. Yep. Yeah, I'm very grateful for that.
[00:14:37] Josh Sharkey:
You mentioned a couple other like companies that were inspirations for you, and by the way, and this isn't just lip service, and obviously we've talked before, but BentoBox was a huge inspiration for me in that you've created sort of a medium for the industry that is, it's sort of bigger than itself.
Like BentoBox is, it's not about BentoBox, it's about the medium that you created for all of these other restaurants. And... You took inspiration from Shopify and MindBody, which also are incredible companies. Do you find that there's parts of BentoBox that you took away from learnings from those companies? And also why, why do those companies inspire you?
[00:15:16] Krystle Mobayeni:
And I think at the time they both felt like very customer focused companies, like the customer above all else. And I think that that's something that I really respected and really tried to instill in BentoBox. And then Shopify, you know, I've always been particularly drawn to like.
Product, engineering, design led kind of companies and, uh, you know, Shopify founder and CEO as an engineer. And I like read something once about him where. He wanted something built and, you know, some engineer like quoted, Oh, it's going to take this amount of time. And he's like, Oh, I'll just do it myself.
The reason it was quoted was in a negative way. But when I read that, I was like, Oh my gosh, I'd like totally relate to that. Like, sometimes I'm just like, I'll just. I'll just do it. And it might seem annoying to employees, but it's the work that I love to do, you know, that I used to do that I love to do.
So it's actually a great pleasure. But I do feel like having that like product and engineering and design DNA is really important and really drove a lot of our success. And I think that's why, you know, I look to these companies.
[00:16:31] Josh Sharkey:
Tobias Lütke an incredible founder. I think he just keeps, like, surprising people. And he's definitely inspiring. You know, I'm going to jump around a bit, because you talked about sort of, your product background and design, and I'm curious if you think about design methodology, to like, design thinking, in, or even something like Kaizen or something, in the way that you run your business.
[00:16:52] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah, no, absolutely. And I don't even think, and it's so unintentional. I just think that like, I'm always, it's just how I'm wired, you know? So I don't even think it's like, we need to bring the design thing into how we, you know, do customer support or how we like approach, how we talk about our products from a marketing perspective.
It's just so ingrained into like everything we do, how we like. Break problems down into parts, how we really focus on, I think design is so just about eliciting a certain response or behavior or feeling or from people. That's a lot of what design is like, how do you like create an experience that like gives you the response or meets the need of this person and.
[00:17:46] Krystle Mobayeni:
I think that level of focus is something that we have in everything that we do from like how we build the product, how we communicate about it, to how we, you know, support our customers, but it's, yeah, it's big, it's a big part. It's just so ingrained that it's really hard for me to even pick out the things that I may do, or I may have put into place because it is like everything, you know, how everything is run.
[00:18:14] Josh Sharkey: Obviously, there's a cycle to it, maybe for those who don't, who don't know, whether it's design thinking or the Kaizen approach, you know, you have like empathize or, or getting feedback and then processing that and ideating on it, prototyping, testing, you know, and then just continually getting feedback. I think that the thing that's hardest I find in that whole sort of test, iterate, improve, test, you know, get feedback, test is the, the feedback part.
Like, how do you process feedback? BentoBox, like Shopify is also. Really customer focused, really customer driven. I'm curious if you have like techniques or tactics that you guys use to process customer feedback and use that to sort of normalize all the insights you get to like create better product.
[00:18:59] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah. Well, I think like one thing that we do kind of often in when we get feedback is a lot of times feedback will come in the form of I want this or I need this or this would be better. And when we get that feedback, like not just trying to get a few layers deeper, but what is the actual problem, you know, like what is, because there may be different approaches to how we solve the actual problem that like meet the needs of more.
Customers or restaurants or solve multiple issues at once versus just focusing on just the surface of this customer said they wanted this. So now we are going to or a bunch of customers are saying, you know, a similar thing. So we're just gonna do that. So it's really. Getting like digging deeper and asking why and asking the questions until you really get to like the core of what is the problem.
And a lot of times we, it's funny with restaurants because restaurants are such complex operations. So many times we'll find that, uh, it's less the technology is a problem, but it's like, uh, the way either the operations or the way the technology is being used or the way it's just like. That they've always done something, you know, and so you can actually help solve the problem without, it's not like a technology problem necessarily.
Yeah. So, that's always been really interesting and I think we've had some like, aha moments with a lot of restaurants we've worked with and covering that.
[00:20:29] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, I think that's been one of the most fun things I've been able to experience jumping from cooking into tech is there's that really, there's so much iteration to it, but you solving the problem is never like a surface level, as you think to your point, you get all these suggestions.
Most people don't actually know the root problem that they're trying to communicate. They just have a, you know, here's what's happening today. So can you fix this for me? And you had to sort of do the five whys of getting to the bottom of it, but. It's so cool when you do. BentoBox now, I mean, it started as sort of like, I call it like the digital storefront for restaurants.
Obviously it's a website, but so many other things. Now there's, I don't even know all the products that you guys have. There's so many of them. But how do
you think about what products to add? Obviously that must be partly because customers like, Hey, I need reservations. I want you to order online. I know some of it is clearly just market driven, you know, COVID happens and people need. Better ways to, you know, to sell product online. But do you have any kind of ways in which you think about, how do you prioritize what products to, to build or to buy, or?
[00:21:36] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah, I think we go and lean always back to our like mission and vision. And the vision is to, elevate every touch point between the restaurant and the guest would be the technology that elevates every touch point between the restaurant and the guest. And so, and our mission is to help restaurants succeed in their mission of hospitality.
So there's a lot in those two sentences. Like, how do how do we help restaurants succeed? You know, it's about like the bottom line. It's about revenue. It's about You know, delivering great hospitality, you know, making sure that everything that we're thinking about and building makes that criteria and then really focusing on that diner restaurant relationship really helps us like focus.
There's a lot of times where suggestions. Or how we can make the product better extend, you know, into like back office or like really into things that don't touch the diner at all. And there's like a point where if it ultimately makes the diner experience better, we'll like go there. But there's definitely like a line where we're like, okay, this is too far. You know?
[00:22:47] Josh Sharkey:
What's that line?
[00:22:48] Krystle Mobayeni:
I think the line is. It's really just if we can't trace it very clearly back to the diner. If we add this product, if we add, make this change, is it actually going to make the restaurant be able to deliver a better experience to their diner, which then in turn, you know, gives them more revenue, sales, profit margin, whatever it is.
And at some point you're just too many steps removed. You know, it's much more of a back office efficiency thing, you know, and it's not actually going to connect the dots enough. And then, you know, we've primarily really focused on online digital experiences. And now I think that's for us. We're starting to think about how does that broaden because the touch points.
With the restaurant and the guests are not just online, obviously they're in person too. And so we can't forget about that and how we're helping make that experience better too.
[00:23:55] Josh Sharkey:
You're, not kind of, you are like a B to C, back to B company, right? So do you also, obviously I'm sure you sort of, you know, capture data, SEO type data, SEO on website traffic and things for restaurants. But do you also talk to your customers to get insights?
[00:24:15] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah, yeah, definitely. I think the customers is a lot easier because everyone at the company is our customers' customers in a sense. So it's really easy to get that kind of feedback. I think it's also really easy to, yeah, you can talk to them and get that sort of feedback.
But then we just have. So much information as to how diners behave when they're like interacting with the website, when they're placing an order, how they're getting to the website, are they looking at the menu all the time? Are they, or do they even check out the events page? Do they even care about that?
Why is it that they're not, you know? So I think that there's just so much information we have about the end customers, that part's almost the easier part in my mind.
[00:24:58] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, have you been able to leverage sort of existing like technologies like CDP platforms or something to analyze all that? Or did you build something in house?
[00:25:09] Krystle Mobayeni:
We use a couple of different tools. We use Looker. We use something called, and for the diner interactions, we use something else called Metabase, which is like another platform that collects the interactions that happen like online and how the products are being used. But yeah, those are the two. And then, you know, even, no. We pull in data from Google Analytics, where all of the websites can aggregate that.
[00:25:33] Josh Sharkey:
Google Analytics has so much data, it's insane. Like, you can really, you set it up well. I think the biggest challenge we always had, you know, the restaurant is tying the customer, like the digital customer and the physical sort of person coming in, in store. Like tying those two together is just such a pain in the ass. Like, are you working on that? Is that a problem that you guys are trying to solve?
[00:25:54] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah, we're thinking about that a lot, and there's a lot, I think that's where being part of FiServ is a really important piece of That story and that journey is, you know, they are, and then not just Pfizer, but also with Clover, you know, really have some strong on premise products, but they're also a payments company.
And actually the payment is actually a really interesting way to tie all of that together, both online and offline. And I think that we're in a unique position because we started as an online platform, you get so much more data. Then from a card on file and who that person is versus, you know, swipe. You don't really know anything about that person at all.
So, yes, it is definitely something we're thinking about. It's something like I'm personally spending a lot of my time on, which is really great. It's like I said before, it's really fun for me to have my hands like in the product. I'm sure like everyone that works here like really hates it, but I'm having a blast.
[00:27:04] Josh Sharkey:
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[00:27:56] Josh Sharkey:
I'm the same way, by the way. It's like what I love most is products, but it's most of what I do. But yeah, it's the tough thing is you're the CEO. So how do you, I feel bad cause I'm actually, now I'm just asking a whole bunch of questions for myself, but hopefully other people will. But you know, when you say something and you have an idea, even if it's an idea, your team might just go and run with it, right?
[00:28:18] Krystle Mobayeni:
Not as much as you would think, you know, a response I get very often is. Oh, well, we'll like go do some research on that. And sometimes I'm like, no, no, no, no, this is, I try to be really clear when I'm feel strongly about something versus when I don't have you thought about this or have you, you know, have you looked into this versus I feel very strongly that it needs to be why, you know, so, because I've had people run with things that I wasn't that serious about and also not run with things that I was very serious about.
[00:28:52] Josh Sharkey:
I have this executive coach and one thing that we're working on right now is I have this problem because I think that things become ambiguous because I'll have an idea and I'm like, you know, it would be really interesting is that it, uh, and then the team will sort of go and run with it. And so I try more now, whenever I'm like in a meeting is I'll in the beginning set the expectation where they're like, Hey, this is something that I want to happen.
I want to be clear that this is something we were going to do, or this is just an ideal. Let's discuss it because if I don't sometimes, you know. That's when trouble arises. Well, it sounds like you're digging into this kind of unified customer data thing right now. Is there anything else that you're really excited about right now?
[00:29:29] Krystle Mobayeni:
That, and then I have, again, a lot of what is like some good that's coming out of, you know, being part of such a large scale company, but there's a lot of really exciting things that we're doing, like directly with customers on kind of a larger scale basis. Some of it, I can't really talk about, but I feel like I am in a position now with the scale of Pfizer and like the support that we have to be able to.
Do really exciting kind of public facing things with our customers that we weren't really able to do before at the like scale we were at. Yeah. So. That's really fun.
[00:30:13] Josh Sharkey:
It's crazy. BentoBox was born because you started designing, you know, a website for Momofuku and all of a sudden more people were asking for this and I have to imagine you, this was not the plan when you first started thinking about, you know, building a website or maybe it was, but when you launched BentoBox, was your original vision that all of these things that are now happening with Bento would be part of it?
[00:30:37] Krystle Mobayeni:
Not when I started because, you know, I started in 2013. And really, then I was just like, I just want to like do great things for restaurants. It was really just very customer focused and still is. But I do think that in 2015, when we first took Outside Capital, I really had to expand the way I was thinking about it because otherwise you shouldn't take Outside Capital if you're not, if you can't think of it that way.
So I think that's probably when I started just being like, Oh, this could be really big. Yeah, I started thinking like, yeah, this actually could be really big. And, um, there's so many directions we could go, but I didn't have a world domination vision in mind. Again, it was always just about like, how can I do really cool things that are actually valuable for restaurants?
[00:31:27] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. You know, one thing I've learned more about you as I hear you talk and listen through the talks is you can look at a company like BentoBox from the outside and, and have some really academic conversations about all the things that happened and how they happened and you seem to have a pretty sort of keep it simple and just do it kind of mentality with things that you do.
[00:31:47] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. That's just an observation. I don't know if that's, you know, we don't know that well to know for sure, but
[00:31:52] Krystle Mobayeni:
I would have loved to been a fly on the wall for these academic conversations. I don't, I'm curious.
[00:31:57] Josh Sharkey:
Well, I just, you know, like I think about your, you know, your talk at First Mark and, you know, talking about how you decide to build something or, or any podcast you're on or just talking about the business that, you know, it's very easy from the outside to look at all the ways in which that decision was made or how you came to that.
And sometimes that is the case. And sometimes it's just that you just have an intuition and you did it and that's what happened. And so I ask some of these questions I'm, I'm okay with if the answer is, nope, we just did that. And with that in mind, yeah, you have a lot of products now, like a ton, like way more products than when you launched.
How do you balance? Knowing that you need to, you know, horizontally expand, you know, with these customers, you need to add more products so that you can, you know, increase your enterprise value and things like that. How do you balance that with the notion of staying focused?
[00:32:41] Krystle Mobayeni:
One thing that is really important is that it's very clear to me how, like, all the dots connect and how every product actually makes the other products, if used together, better and how complementary they are.
They're not random, it's all additive, you know, we haven't always gotten it right. There's definitely products that we've deprecated, you know, that we tried. And I think that's where like the build it fast, do like an MVP type of thing and not everything has taken off, you know, but you're not going to get to the things that actually are.
It's going to become like big, valuable products if you don't like take the risk and kind of be okay with getting it wrong sometimes. Yeah,
[00:33:28] Josh Sharkey:
Fail fast. You have a design background and you started some companies, but you're, you're not a CFO, you know, you're not a lot of these things. So you had to hire a lot of those people.
That's a really tough thing to navigate as well. Hiring, you know, people that have skill sets that you don't have, you know, how do you know what? Great looks like when you haven't done that, you know, and then also like, how do you ensure they're successful? It's one thing if you hire a CFO or COO and they just crush it from day one But what happens if they don't how do you navigate that any, you know, learnings or insights along the way?
It's been 10 years now. I imagine that you've had, you know, a bunch of ups and downs there
[00:34:02] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah, definitely hired a lot of great people and definitely have hired some not great fits just to, you know, to get neutral. Gosh, yeah, I don't, I think it's really, it's when you don't know what you're looking for, it's really hard, you know, you have to kind of go off like a person when you don't know what good looks like.
And I think that you and me wouldn't be where you are. If you didn't have an idea of what good looks like, you might not be able to, like, write all the bullet points on a piece of paper and, like, be able to vet them, but you know, you always know, like, anyone that ended up not being a good fit, the reasons were there from the beginning.
Yeah. Yeah, decided that they were like, not as important, you know, all the risks were there, but I think it's all part of the process. I think that one thing that I did a lot is I found experts in those areas that I wasn't good at that were, you know. Either referrals from investors or from like friends or other people and had them talk to the people to like, give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down, or even have them when someone was struggling, ask them if they could mentor this person and help point them in the right direction.
Cause I sure wasn't going to be able to do that and people are pretty gracious and willing with their time, you know? Yeah. I did that a bunch.
[00:35:38] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. That's also one of the, why it's so important to have good investors for that, because they can be so helpful. Yeah. I find that you can also have a really good person at the wrong time for your business.
Or also I think you do actually have to be really granular about what results do I want out of this? person. I think that's a mistake we've made in the past where they're really good, but we actually needed something different. And their superpower is this, and we really need this. And that's, I think, you know, obviously just like lessons learned.
But have you had, do you remember a time when you hired someone that was really good? And then you realized, shit, this is great, but it's not gonna work for us.
[00:36:17] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah, that's definitely happened. I mean, we definitely have hired people who probably would have worked better at larger scale with resources and lots of, you know, direct reports doing a bunch of stuff, or they were very structured and like the size and pace we were at didn't really work for how structured they were, but I do think the heart, the thing that I ran into more.
And was harder was when you brought someone great on and it was actually like perfect timing and it worked for like a year or two and then the like pace of the company started out pacing like the growth of the person that to me like happened way more and was like way harder.
[00:37:07] Josh Sharkey: Yeah, and then I mean what do you do? Wait for them to move on? Or?
[00:37:07] Krystle Mobayeni:
I mean, I think that you can, depending on the type of person they are, and we've had a few people like this where they're really good zero to one people, and there are other zero to one things happening at the company, and so it could potentially go and like jump on those things. I think that. I've done a decent job, like not letting that stuff linger, you know, and I try to like make it so that it's not about the person, but the role, and I think the longer you let it linger, it becomes a problem, you know, so
You just have to have the difficult conversations and they shouldn't be surprised that the difficult conversation, you know, I think it should be like, there should be like a conversation happening regularly about what's going on. So if anyone's ever surprised, then. We've communicated badly or yeah, that's what I've learned.
[00:38:03] Josh Sharkey:
I'm always curious 'cause we hire so many chefs at meez and we're a technology company. It actually works really well in many cases. There are times when it really doesn't, but how have you found hiring folks from the industry at BentoBox?
[00:38:17] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah, I think there's certain roles that they are great for and they're usually like, you know, customer facing roles.
And then I think there's some roles that kind of just need the experience. At the technology company, but we've had. Amazing, like success, like hiring people in the restaurant industry into customer support or customer success or onboarding and then once they've been at the company for a while, and they understand how like a technology company operates, you know.
moved into like product or operations and like that path seems to like work really well.
[00:38:57] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, I love seeing that. We have a couple chefs that have sort of, you know, grown into other roles and it's so cool to see because there's so many skill sets that are transferable. Yeah, you're hiring front of house back, all kinds of folks, but I just, you know, another thing about restaurants.
[00:39:13] Josh Sharkey:
We have the lineup. I know you don't, you haven't worked at a bunch, but I'm sure you know a lot about this. There's, there's like the lineup at the beginning of the service or just before service and you get everybody together and talk about the day. In other businesses like ours, we have an all hands and it's just similar, just not the cadence is not daily.
It's usually weekly or something you've had an all hands that I think has been, you've had the same all hands for.
[00:39:34] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah. How did you know that? Did I talk about that?
[00:39:36] Josh Sharkey:
You talked about it. And I heard it. So again, I'm being really selfish. I'm just going to be asking you a bunch of questions that are helpful for us.
[00:39:44] Josh Sharkey:
But again, I think they're transferable. How has your all hands changed over time? How I'm going to ask you a couple, I'll remind you again if you want. How do you maintain the intimacy of it as your team has grown? And then do you use it as a way to promote your company principles or is that something that just happens organically?
[00:40:02] Krystle Mobayeni:
A lot of people have tried to kill it, you know, many times and I'm like, it does, it must continue. If you don't like it, you don't have to call.
[00:40:11] Josh Sharkey:
And it's weekly still, is it every week?
[00:40:12] Krystle Mobayeni:
It's weekly and I think the things that keep it intimate are the things that like we've kept, which is, it's not just me talking, you know, it's the main thing that we've kept is like, This portion that's just all about like gratitude, where everyone goes and thanks someone for something that they've done during that week or that month, because now it's a little bit extended because now we have like groups.
[00:40:36] Krystle Mobayeni:
It used to be that everyone had to go every week.
[00:40:38] Josh Sharkey: How long is the meeting?
[00:40:40] Krystle Mobayeni:
[00:40:41] Josh Sharkey:
Wow. Okay. Yeah. How many people is it? Is it now?
[00:40:44] Krystle Mobayeni:
Probably close to 200. And I think up until we were maybe 30 or 40 people, everyone went every week. I mean, you could always opt out. Like I never forced everyone to talk, but, and then we started going into like splitting it into groups and now it's kind of split up by function.
[00:40:59] Krystle Mobayeni:
So for example, I think this week it's like, The people team, the BD team and another team is going this week and we have a little slack message. And if you're going to say something at this one, you get a little thumbs up.
[00:41:11] Josh Sharkey:
Oh, okay. There's like a representative or anybody can, anybody from the team?
[00:41:14] Krystle Mobayeni:
Anybody. So that, you know, we don't call the names of people who don't want to. You don't have to. Yeah. Keeping that has been important, even though it's like at times it's been like awkward when it's, when we're growing. As we've grown, we've, I think it's every month, so every like fourth or fifth one, when it's like It's an hour long instead of half an hour.
And then we go through like real business updates because we found that people wanted to hear about the business, how the business was going. And I always open the all hands and I just talk about something random that's on my mind or some experience I had at a restaurant or with one of our customers or something that I'm excited
[00:41:57] Krystle Mobayeni:
About, but then we started hearing that people, sometimes I talk about our metrics, but not always, but people wanted to like, stay connected to the metrics more. And so I started at that all hands doing like a metrics thing every time. And then I was just like, this is not what I want to be talking about.
And so we added, there's like a business review now.
[00:42:21] Josh Sharkey:
What are like the key metrics that you track for your business?
[00:42:24] Krystle Mobayeni:
It's really just like the top level ones, like revenue, new customers, cancellations, ARPU. And now that we're part of FiServ and the world is different. No, I guess we used to track. Look at burn, but now it's about like operating income, like how much are we actually, you know, what's the bottom line?
[00:42:47] Josh Sharkey:
When you say burn like you would just report on burn multiple or just actual like fixed dollar amount of burn every month?
[00:42:55] Krystle Mobayeni:
I think we talked about burn every I don't know back then it was every month. It might have been Yeah, it's like two plus years ago, but at some cadence we would we wouldn't say how much money we had in the bank But we would you know, yeah about How much you're spending.
And I remember like during the pandemic, when we, um, you know, at the beginning of the pandemic, it was like, ah, everyone's like freaking out. And then it turned out it was like a good time for us, but when everyone was freaking out and we were making sure we scaled back a little bit, just to like play it safe and I really.
Talked people through from like a burn perspective, like why we were scaling back because, you know, it was like, we keep doing what we're doing. Like we run out of money on this date and I need to extend it. So like, that's why, you know, this is all happening. People appreciate.
[00:43:46] Josh Sharkey:
I imagine some of the things that you talk about are, you know, environment or market dependent.
But like, generally speaking, you have the grateful piece of the all hands. And then is there another evergreen piece of the meeting that happens every week?
[00:43:59] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah. So usually I kick it off and then we have, we introduce new people a lot. Actually, I should even say that I don't kick it off anymore. And this is something else that changed now that we have so many people and people don't, you know, want to get to know each other.
There's a host now every time that starts and it's a different person and they pick their background music. So you kind of get a little bit of, you know, you can start understanding the person through their music choices and they talk a little bit about themselves in the beginning and then they like pass it off to me.
[00:44:33] Josh Sharkey:
You know, I've heard you talk a lot about your principles, but we have first principals at meez that we constantly try our best to promulgate. And you know, you, when you're on board, obviously you see them and then we have them in other places. But how do you organically or inorganically, you know, promote the principles of your company to your team?
[00:44:51] Krystle Mobayeni:
Well, I try to like drop them in, you know, in any feedback I'm giving or organic ways like that. We do have twice a year, you may have heard me talk about it. We do the principal awards. We just get out the principal awards like twice a year, you know, people are nominated for each principal, give them all award when we were like in person, they used to have to wear like a little sash and to the other person, but now whoever won the principal award from.
Uh, the particular principle. So there was like nine, you know, winners, whoever won it the year before needs to introduce the person who's winning it this year. It's like a little past the baton moment. And it's fun. It's great. And people nominate. So everyone's like really a part of it. It works well.
[00:45:36] Josh Sharkey:
I like that. I’ll make a note of that. Okay. We're going to move on a little bit. We've taken up enough of your time. Just asking how you run things, but so, you know, for the audience, maybe we could talk a little bit about your, you've been in tech, the food tech world for quite a while now, let's say 10 years, do you think about, you know, forward thinking, any opportunities you're seeing for like net new technology, innovation process is specifically in the hospitality industry.
[00:46:01] Krystle Mobayeni:
There's a lot. I stay away from like the robot, AI, kind of replace the person world. I don't really like go down that path. And I always try to think about ways where technology can be like invisible and like more in the background, you know? I think this is probably just like a lame answer because I, I think it's the really obvious ones, but I do think that, and I know a lot of people are talking about, talk about this, but I do think that there's just some way to just help restaurants better with data, you know, like, it's just like nobody, we all have so much of it and we give them these dashboards and nobody like cares about a dashboard or knows how to read a dashboard and there just should be some more like, Insightful, actionable ways to present, to give that to restaurants. So they like actually use it where it doesn't even look or feel
[00:46:58] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, a hundred percent. I think like the restaurants don't have data scientists and data analysts and, and even when they have someone that can read these dashboards, like we need to just give them. You know, output, like how to operationalize this data.
And I think about a lot with these. We actually, we do this, we're very like anti reports and people are asking for the reports. I'm like, you're going to get this in the app in real time. The thing that you do will help you like figure out how to like, Price your menu, but, but like, just in time versus just in case, you know, is way, I think it's really important, but maybe I can anchor your thought process here.
I imagine you have a lot of insights here, but like maybe just thinking about like the future of the digital storefront, because for all intents and purposes, the website hasn't really changed much in 10 years, you know, we go, there's a menu, maybe that menu is in the sidebar. Maybe it's on top. You got your menu, you got your about, you got, you know, maybe what are you catering?
You know, things like that. Uh, the phone, it's the same, it's a little bit harder to navigate. Are there like things that you think about for, you know, just step function changes and how the websites exist?
[00:48:10] Krystle Mobayeni:
How websites exist. Wow. There's a lot of, um, times where I had to like, and I know this is not what you're asking, defend the websites existence.
You know, and it's going to be replaced by apps, like it's not going to be replaced by apps, you know, because especially not for restaurants, but they just like, really, like, they care so much about the experience. There's no way they're going to give that up, but I do think, I think that one, like, opportunity.
Is really like with how do we make like SMS like feel like a lot, you know, I know this is like, do you really have to go to the website or can you just like text someone, you know, and it's like, we're doing it like all the time anyway, you know, I think that's a really interesting idea and how can it be done in a way that feels like you're almost like a regular or it feels like you have some like connection with the restaurant and the way that tone, everything feels like the restaurant, but I think that's one potential opportunity.
But I do think about, I do think that the website can really, we think about it as something that happens like before you, like when you're not at the restaurant to get like information or if you want to like buy or order something for the restaurant. But I do think that there's ways where it can play.
a bigger role in the actual on premise experience in a way that doesn't take away from on premise experience, but just like really enhances it.
[00:49:45] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, I totally agree. I think one thing I think about the caveat here is. Except cookies, because if you don't, you know, you have some problems, but you know, if you go to Eleven Madison Park, they know my grandmother's birthday, and they know that my wife's anniversary was two weeks ago, and you know, they remembered last time it was raining, and they gave me an umbrella, and you know, they remember all these things about you, and it's just accretive to the experience, and I'm, you know, I think that probably could be even easier when I go to their website, and I go to And I don't actually know what I'm doing.
I'm just kind of like, I think I want to book a table. And they're like, Hey, you know, your wedding anniversary is in two weeks. Or I saw that you were looking at it and like when I get to that website, it's actually like for me, you know, I think that's possible, especially with this data that you're working on, you know, like, how do you, you know, unify the, the customer data?
I'm curious if you ever think about like, how do you personalize these websites? Because I agree that I don't think they, they should go away because they are the store front end. Let's just say I go to 50 restaurants. That means I have 50 apps on my phone. That's crazy. So like, how do we personalize like these websites?
[00:50:49] Krystle Mobayeni:
When we think about personalization, and I think from like, if you got like a personalized, like email or text message, You'd be like, cool, I think if you went to a website that was like personalized, I think because it's so, no one is looking at it except you, but the website is like somewhere anyone can go versus your email or your text message.
And I think that there is some perception that like a line has been crossed because it feels public, even though it's not. Think about that. Like, you'd probably be like, You know, my anniversary, but then if you go to the website, does everyone know my anniversary? Which is obviously not what's going on, you know, but there's something like, I think it's so walking the line of additive and not creepy.
I think with this data is so important and I think it's like these little things like that of like how the human brain thinks that you just have to like,
[00:51:43] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, I feel like. That could be solved with UX like you have a thing on the bottom that says accept cookies Yeah, like which by the way, I think yeah, that's a terrible experience because it's just ruined every time I go to website I have to do it.
I'm like, okay, my first experience is this and it has no fault to the website, but You can skate around it. But like, if you got to the website and there was a door, you know, it says like, Hey, do you want to come in personally? And we can, you know, and no, I just want to like do my thing or, you know, and we can create this person or not.
And then you actually sort of, you know, circumvent just the main website, even though it's the same thing and kind of get to this personal experience. I do think, yeah, you need to, you set some context. Cause if I just get to this thing that anybody else can also get to, and you know, my, all this information about me, like, Whoa, what happened, but yeah.
[00:52:30] Krystle Mobayeni:
Yeah, that's a cool idea. I like that.
[00:52:31] Josh Sharkey:
Well, speaking of that, although I think actually a cool idea, maybe, well, then you don't know about that, but you right now you're obviously you're digging a bunch into customer data, but it's now 10 years since you started BentoBox. You have more resources now since you've been acquired by FiServ
I'm going to have to remind myself here. I want to either at least remind everybody in the show notes what FiServ is, or maybe we can talk about it for a minute just so everybody's aware. But if you were going to start another business today, do you know what it would be? Would you just not start one?
[00:52:57] Krystle Mobayeni:
I don't think I would start a Venture business again, you know, like I, or like in the stage that I'm at, like, I'm not, that's not something I'm like jumping at the opportunity to do. I mean, maybe if something comes to me, but I do think that I was going to start something. I want to do something that's much more like a brand, a brick and mortar, just something a lot more physical, you know, then.
[00:53:27] Krystle Mobayeni:
What I've been doing, that's where my mind goes. I don't have any sort of idea. I'm not like working on anything.
[00:53:33] Josh Sharkey:
Why not a venture backed business?
[00:53:35] Krystle Mobayeni: Just like ending on a high note, you know, it was a great run. I learned all the things I, um, it was very specific, you know, as very specific experience and, um, it's not.
One that I'm like jumping at again, you know, I feel like I took everything I needed from that experience as a human and I'm not sure it has any more to give me.
[00:54:03] Josh Sharkey:
But you're at the, towards the end of the road trip, I'm more towards the beginning and I think you quickly learn what that means to be a venture backed business.
And I think that the thing that I didn't fully appreciate, which I appreciate in, in terms of the, you know, the makeup of what it means, but for anybody looking for venture capital, it is. meant for outsized returns, not for anything in between. So just creating a simply profitable business is fine, but not for venture.
[00:54:32] Josh Sharkey:
And, you know, you, you have to take big risks and you have to, you know, be okay with, which is something you need in any business, but you don't need to, it needs to be a risk with an outsized return. And if it doesn't have an outsized return, then it's not really of interest to venture. A venture is a great instrument for raising capital, but I think a lot of people aren't aware of that when they get into it is that you can.
Create a really good business that still isn't meant for venture capital if it's not growing the way that you need to grow. And then that then creates a cycle as the CEO of continually making sure that you're having these sort of outsized growth spurts and things like that. And yeah, I think, I think I asked you why, because I think, you know, some folks, you know, I get, you probably do as well.
Every week I have someone asking me like advice on how to raise cash. And first thing I was asking, asking them is like, Why do you want cash? What do with it? And what kind of business do you have? And yeah, you know, venture, you know, any time a restaurant asked me, I'm like, don't get venture capital. There's no reason for that. And they probably won't invest anyways. But
[00:55:31] Krystle Mobayeni:
The type of person that I am, I took a commitment to like raising outside capital and the expectation that came within some people take it and you know, are still somehow able to be like, this is like my show. And this thing doesn't.
You know, matter, but I took my commitment to take that money into my investors and to people on my cap table very, very seriously, you know, I was. Incapable of not taking it seriously. And so, you know, it's just a particular dynamic and some people don't take it as seriously. And I think that was very powerful and cool for them.
[00:56:08] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah I’m the same way. And I think it's, it's interesting because once you do understand the makeup of what the expectation of venture capital, when you do take it seriously, it just creates a new paradigm. I totally agree. You know, I come from the restaurant world where we have restaurant investors and that cash is, it's a cashflow business and you got to pay back that cash.
And I think of it the same exact way. An a venture, it just means you're not just paying back that cash, you need to make sure it's, you know, it's paying back the fund that you have a 10x multiple on your, you know, on your phone. So it's just a different, a different approach. I love it, but it's, I think I want to make sure people are aware of the dynamic when you do it.
Well, when you think of what the next business is, you let us know. Do you think about like where BentoBox? It's going to be in 10 years, what kind of a company it's going to be. It's already gone. And I think about the last 10 years, it's been, it's like night and day. What's, what's 10 years from now?
[00:56:58] Krystle Mobayeni:
Who Knows? I just, I'm very just focused on kind of the, the more near term future, you know, and being trusting that's like the right direction of bringing this whole like diner experience, both online and on premise together, like that's like really important. I don't know, I don't know where that road's going to lead, you know, and I think that's better.
[00:57:23] Josh Sharkey:
That's true. We also don't know how the world's going to change in 10 years. That probably will affect some of the things. Anything else you want to share? The audience is primarily restaurant, hospitality, entrepreneurs, food folks.
[00:57:38] Krystle Mobayeni:
If that's the audience, I am always like so grateful I get to work with such a great industry and many of our customers are ever listening that a big thank you for trusting us, you know, with your most important relationships and my pleasure to be able to like serve this industry that's always taking care of everyone else.
[00:58:00] Josh Sharkey:
Well, thank you for building such an incredible company that so many people get value out of. This was great. We could have talked about a hundred things, but I think you have a business to run. As do I, so like we'll, we'll stop here, but thank you so much for coming to the show.
[00:58:15] [00:58:16] Krystle Mobayeni:
Thanks. It was so good catching up. That's what I felt like it was, which is great.
[00:58:22] Josh Sharkey:
Thanks for tuning into the meez podcast. The music from the show is a remix of the song Art Mirror by an old friend, hip hop artist, Fresh Daily. For show notes and more, visit getmeez.com/podcast. That's G E T M E Z dot com forward slash podcast. If you enjoyed the show, I'd love it if you can share it with fellow entrepreneurs and culinary pros and give us a five star rating wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Keep innovating, don't settle, make today a little bit better than yesterday, and remember, it's impossible for us to learn what we think we already know. See you next time.