It’s a familiar story – a startup begins with a great idea, secures funding, and is off to the races. Initially, growth comes in fits and starts, driven by a handful of gung-ho founders. But as the business gains traction, it becomes clear that sustained growth requires better organization, improved processes, and advanced technology.
Lunchbox, a SaaS-based platform provider for restaurants, is a prime example of this story. The company provides tools to restaurant chains for managing web ordering, guest loyalty, marketing, and order aggregation. Founded in 2019 and further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lunchbox has rapidly grown to where it is now used by over 5,000 restaurants. The platform helps restaurants reclaim a portion of the 30% to 45% margin that aggregated online ordering systems like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and GrubHub often eat into.
Lunchbox’s Early Hurdles
As Lunchbox expanded, its staff grew accordingly. Yet the company’s business processes didn’t keep pace at first. Many tasks were handled by whoever had the time, and there was no dedicated IT staff or proper oversight. The chief technology officer and accountant did their best to manage everything using Google Sheets and Docs, but there was a lack of structure. One of the thorniest problems at the time was understanding the company’s application expenses, who made the purchases, and how these applications were used.
By 2022, the company realized it needed to hire a formal IT director. The newly appointed director, Gian Luca D’Intino-Conte, had his work cut out for him. Within a month of joining, he sussed out the major challenges and began devising solutions to address them.
Facing the SaaS Management Challenges
Upon assuming the role of IT director, D’Intino-Conte immediately tackled problems related to SaaS management. The company had difficulties finding contract information, managing renewals effectively, and dealing with rampant shadow IT.
“When I started looking into contracts that were actively being reviewed for renewal, I had a nightmare of a time sifting through all of the links and documents … to figure out what we had signed, why it was purchased, and certain features that have been agreed to but never implemented,” D’Intino-Conte said. “I needed a way to have that information fed to me rather than having to hunt for it.”
The issue was partly due to the company’s rapid growth, which resulted in a hiring spree. Those new hires often felt they needed additional tools to optimize their performance and workflow. However, since there was neither a centralized system nor a formal approval process for adding tools, they simply used a departmental credit card to buy what they wanted. Some of those purchases had contracts, while others didn’t.
Another pressing issue was the management of application lifecycles. As Lunchbox quickly grew, new employees would join and sign up for various applications using a credit card, only to leave the company later.
These types of problems are widespread among companies that use SaaS applications, noted Liz Herbert, a vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research.
“Because SaaS is easy to buy and often overtly targets business buyers or other non-corporate buyers like developers, we see rampant shadow IT due to SaaS,” Herbert said.
While unsanctioned SaaS might be acceptable in some cases, especially for small and standalone purchases, they can often lead to trouble, she added. Problems include duplication of effort and cost, a poor fit with enterprise architecture, and potential security risks when products aren’t vetted or approved by qualified personnel.
The Benefits of Torii Implementation
D'Intino-Conte was already familiar with the SaaS management tool Torii from a previous job, and he decided to implement the tool just weeks after joining Lunchbox.
Torii integrates with other tools in the environment, such as Google Workspace, Salesforce, and Okta, and shares information about access, permissions, and licenses. The tool also features a browser extension that tracks employees’ logins and SaaS application use.
With Torii in place, D'Intino-Conte gained visibility into every application used by Lunchbox employees, along with usage statistics to identify which applications were most frequently used.
Additionally, he could retrieve contracts and consolidate all relevant information. That, in turn, allowed him to identify access policies that needed review and adjustments.
Lunchbox accountant Alex Penado quickly saw the advantages of Torii. “It helped with managing weekly pay meetings, where we talk about forecasting SaaS spend,” Penado said.
More specifically, the tool let Penado correlate data from QuickBooks, Bill.com, and Lunchbox’s credit card provider. It made it easier to pinpoint the amount the company was spending on each SaaS application. “No matter who signed up for a tool, we could identity it and either commit to a better term for better pricing or simply remove it because it wasn’t being used anymore.”
As for D'Intino-Conte, the most valuable feature of the tool has been its deep discovery function, which generates an alert whenever a user signs up for an application. The tool also sends the user a quick survey, asking who approved the sign-up and the purpose of using the application. With that information, Lunchbox can identify if a trial is taking place and whether the user will be accessing company data.
When D’Intino-Conte implemented Torii, the discovery feature identified 400 applications that had been accessed by Lunchbox users – four times higher than the 100 applications listed on an existing spreadsheet.
While adopting Torii, D’Intino-Conte simultaneously worked on several other important priorities. One of those tasks was implementing the Atlassian Assist service management system, which integrates with the Jira service desk.
“We had a very loud, messy way of people saying, ‘Hey, can I have that?’ or ‘Can I get that?’” D’Intino-Conte said. “It was hellish.”
However, within 48 hours, he introduced Atlassian Assist and the Jira service desk. This not only brought order to how employees made requests but also provided usage statistics on the most frequently requested items. As a result, he gained insights into which higher-level automations could be added to reduce ticket flow and automatically fulfill employee needs. Okta was instrumental in creating automated provisioning rules based on the ticket inflow and granting access to the required resources.
Along the way, D’Intino-Conte has been building custom automations as needed. For example, he collaborates with the company’s onboarding team to explore automated methods for launching new customers. He aims to replace remaining manual configurations with automated workflows, creating faster and more efficient customer onboarding processes.
A Data-Focused Future
In the future, D’Intino-Conte plans to use language learning models both across Lunchbox products and internally. To benefit customers, the Lunchbox engineering team is currently working on an AI-based system that will serve as a business analytics assistant within the Lunchbox platform.
“The idea is that a non-technical restaurant user will be able to ask a question about the restaurant, and the language learning model will filter through all of the orders and present the answer they are looking for,” he explained. “For example, they can ask [to see] their top 10 customers at their Florida locations within the last six months.”
D’Intino-Conte’s ambitions don’t end there. He envisions a future where the company adopts a more data-focused approach. “We’re spending a lot of time making our data engineering shop more robust so we can have better business insights for ourselves and our customers,” he said.
About the authorKaren D. Schwartz is a technology and business writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has written on a broad range of technology topics for publications including CIO, InformationWeek, GCN, FCW, FedTech, BizTech, eWeek and Government Executive.