Alum Starts Innovative Restaurant Website Ordering System, Hires Recent ESU Grad
Rob Tomko (pictured above on right) considered being a sports agent, and opted to do an internship with the Lehigh Valley Black Diamonds (an independent league baseball team) to test his interest level. He quickly realized it wasn’t for him.
The 1999 East Stroudsburg University graduate then decided to give pharmaceutical sales a try. That lasted for seven years before he worked in other sales management positions for seven more years. Then the itch really kicked in.
“I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and start my own business,” said Tomko, whose degree is in sport management, “but I never took the leap.”
Until three years ago. That’s when the idea of a mobile app for golf course food hit him. As a golfer himself, Tomko knew the frustration of being hungry at the turn (also known as having finished the ninth hole), but not wanting to hold up golfers behind him while heading into the clubhouse to eat. So he started work on an app with which golfers could order food from their phones and have it ready and waiting for them at the clubhouse before they started the 10th hole.
But the more Tomko thought about it, the more he realized he could drum up additional business if he created a website and an app geared toward restaurants. So he went back to work.
“During the development phase, I spent about 3,000 hours working,” Tomko said. “I would be up until 3 a.m. and also was dealing with two children at home.”
On June 20, Tomko officially launched fedfast.com. So far, he has almost 60 restaurants on board, most of which are in the Lehigh Valley. But Tomko recently hired Ryan Gellner, who graduated from ESU in May with a degree in business management, as a marketing representative who will focus on getting restaurants from the Poconos to sign on with Fed Fast. Cluck-U Chicken is the most recent to jump aboard.
“We’re getting calls every week from restaurants who want to sign up,” Tomko said. “We think the revenue can be pretty outstanding in the future.”
To take advantage of all Tomko’s company has to offer, individuals can visit fedfast.com and search for either the type of food they are craving or search via location. Restaurants fitting the search criteria that are registered with Fed Fast appear, and individuals place their orders online. Customers can pay with credit cards, tip online and either go pick up the food or have it delivered if the restaurant they are ordering from offers delivery service.
Now you’re wondering how the restaurant is alerted that there is an online order awaiting their attention.
Participating restaurants each have a special wireless printer or fax machine that Tomko ordered. It pulls data every 60 seconds, at which point it lights up and rings in the kitchen to alert the staff that an order is ready to be filled. Once the order has been placed, the customer will receive an email confirmation with a receipt, a confirmation number and an approximate time the order will be ready for either pick-up or delivery.
“My goal for the company is by December 31, 2014, to have 100 restaurants on board,” Tomko said. “I think it’s obtainable.”
Tomko and Gellner connected via their fraternity, Kappa Delta Rho, and have been greatly influenced along the way by what they learned at ESU.
“I respect all my professors,” Tomko said. “From being at ESU and the connections I’ve made there, that’s all been extremely helpful. I learned how to structure myself and accomplish tasks that I learned from my professors who mentored me. My main influence was Professor Bobby Fleischman, Ed.D., J.D. He’s seen me go through many ups and downs. He helped me a lot.”
Gellner, who joined Tomko’s company on July 28, was thrilled when Tomko posted a message on the fraternity’s Facebook page in the spring that he was looking to hire someone.
“I always wanted to get involved in a start-up company,” Gellner said. “I definitely learned a lot going through college with entrepreneurial classes. They basically taught me, A-Z, how to start your own business. If you want to really make money, start your own business.”
Some other restaurants Gellner is targeting in the area include Palumbo’s Pizzeria, Philly Steaks, Trackside and Stroudsmoor Country Inn.
Fed Fast’s biggest competitor is GrubHub, which partnered with Seamless about two years ago. Together, Tomko said, they have more than 25,000 restaurants under contract. But Tomko emphasized that that number isn’t as large as it seems because the United States has 980,000 untapped restaurants.
And with Fed Fast’s phone app slated to launch in two or three months, Tomko has high hopes.
“About 60 percent of all Americans have smart phones, and that number will only increase,” he said. “So there is room to grab the market share and take over.”