How to Make a Major Career Jump with Brandon Barton

In this episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast, we have Brandon Barton, CEO of Bite and a hospitality tech entrepreneur and expert. Join us for a fantastic conversation about how to make the jump into a technology career from a non-tech career.

If you missed episode 217, check it out here: What it Takes to Lead 1,200-Person Company like ZoomInfo with Tim Strickland

What You’ll Learn

  • What it means to create an incredible experience for people
  • How technology is impacting the restaurant industry during global labor shortages
  • The transferable skills needed to make an industry or career jump

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. About Brandon Barton and Bite [02:46]
  2. The future of restaurants and new technology [9:48]
  3. Brandon’s journey to becoming CEO of Bite [12:01]
  4. The transition from a non-tech industry to the B2B tech industry [17:30]
  5. Fundraising as a PR activity instead of a sales activity
  6. Paying it forward [28:09]
  7. Sam’s Corner [30:25]

Show Introduction [00:10]

Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody. Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the Sales Hacker podcast. Today on the show, we’ve got my good friend, Brandon Barton. He’s the CEO of Bite. He is a longtime restaurant industry veteran. It’s a great conversation about how to make the jump from a non-technology career to a technology career and why it’s actually not such a hard transition after all because the ideas and concepts are still the same. It’s still about serving your customer and providing a great experience whether you’re working at Union Square Hospitality or you’re the CEO of one of the fastest-growing restaurant technology companies out there.

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About Brandon Barton and Bite [02:46]

Sam Jacobs: Today on the show, I’m incredibly excited to have my good friend and estimable colleague, Brandon Barton. Brandon Barton is a hospitality tech entrepreneur who has used his experience working in operations at the top hospitality groups to build and scale early-stage tech products that help restaurateurs.

He is currently CEO of Bite, the best-in-class digital ordering solution for restaurants, leading the company to incredible growth within top QSR brands like Chick-fil-A, Taco John’s, and Fazoli’s. Bite’s goal is to elevate hospitality everywhere, and this surely is Brandon’s passion as well. Brandon, tell us in your words, what do you all do?

Brandon Barton: Bite is a first-party digital ordering solution for restaurants. We’re a B2B company. We create digital ordering experiences on behalf of restaurant brands. You may have used Bite in the past and not even known it because it feels like the restaurant’s the one producing that or putting out that product.

Our primary product and the one that has been most successful is our kiosk ordering product. You can go up to a screen and order digitally. We do this for some incredible brands around the country, and it has been an incredible ride.

We have AI and machine learning algorithm that sits behind the product, and it pushes suggestions which generally lead to an increase in what the customer spends. That’s differentiated us in the marketplace.

The future of restaurants and new technology [9:48]

Sam Jacobs: Let’s talk about the future of restaurants. How far do you see this going? Are we going to be digitally ordering inside? How far into “fine dining” does technology intercede?

Brandon Barton: I am super forward on technology for restaurants, but I also want to preserve this wonderful interaction that you have with your servers in high-end fine dining experiences.

I find value when I go to a family restaurant like Applebee’s in getting that second drink from a digital screen or from my own phone, but I’m a big fan of preserving what has made restaurants special for thousands of years, which is people being able to embrace the guests that are in front of you and give them that service. I don’t think it goes that far, but I also don’t think that we’re done inventing styles of restaurants.

Brandon’s journey to becoming CEO of Bite [12:01]

Sam Jacobs: This is the first time you’re a CEO. Walk us through a little bit about your background.

Brandon Barton: I think anyone’s journey if you look at the last two things that they did, add them up, and you can figure out where they went next. I give that advice to people that are looking for jobs. I was a bus boy trying to make it make a dime as a 14-year-old kid in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

I went to college as an engineer, but I did not understand that I could actually have a hospitality career. Luckily, that college was Cornell, and they have a hospitality program. Switched over and fell in love with restaurants.

I went to work for Patina Group, then to work for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. My next position was of service or a beverage director. I knew I wanted to leave restaurants and get involved in something with a little bit more scope.

I found a way out of restaurants by meeting the CEO of Avero while he had lunch at the restaurant. he said, “Come in, have an interview.” The next day they offered me about 2.5 times my salary, and I jumped at it. I famously said, “I don’t want to work in this computer stuff. I don’t want to work in tech.” Yeah, I fell in love with it, the whole process of being able to teach restaurateurs how to better use tech so that they can run their businesses better.

I’ve always been obsessed with restaurants and want them to run their businesses better, cleaner, and more efficiently. My way to do that is to teach them what tech is out there that can help them to do that.

I was in Avero for eight years, then I got an interview and got the head of sales role at Resy, the fourth person in the company. Now I’m sitting, after having years of experience with account management to customer success and sales and enterprise sales and mid-market at Avero, I got to go put my own playbook in place, and that was a blast.

The transition from a non-tech industry to the B2B tech industry [17:30]

Sam Jacobs: How did you manage? Did you find the transition to officially being in B2B tech difficult? You’re selling to restaurants, but you have transitioned now to a new industry. Was that easy?

Brandon Barton: I understand restaurants. I might as well have multiple bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality based on the places I’ve worked. I talk to people about restaurants, and I just so happened to go to Cornell as an engineer and really understand the tech side of things and how something may translate. So, I didn’t have that much trouble.

But I will say in general, there are so many transferable skills. And anyone listening is thinking, “Man, I don’t want to go to X industry or Y industry.”. Go learn it. You might have to make a lateral move, but that’s okay because you’re going to widen your network so much. You can take any of those skills.

The skill of caring for people translates to everything. If you care genuinely about the person that you are working with, selling to, or providing service to, nothing else matters. Just care about them, listen to them, understand their problem, and help figure out how that might work internally in whatever your current gig is.

And so restaurants, you’re sitting there selling wine, it happens to be similar to selling software. You just don’t know that at the time.

Fundraising as a PR activity instead of a sales activity

Sam Jacobs: What do you attribute your success to?

Brandon Barton: I think the success is on the reps. I’ve learned a little bit of understanding it can’t be a sales pitch and how to get my message right. You just got to get reps at it. That 10,000 hours thing is so accurate. Work on something for a long time, and you’re going to be better than a lot of people at it.

I try hard, and I work hard, and that comes from my sports kind of mentality. You say, “I suck at something. Guess what? I’m just going to do that over and over and over until I don’t suck at it.”

Paying it forward [28:09]

Sam Jacobs: What are some ideas, people, or things that you think we should be aware of that have contributed to making you who you are?

Brandon Barton: I think everybody should read Danny Meyers’s book called Setting The Table. It’s about hospitality, but it’s not. It’s about business. There’s a lot of lessons in that book that he taught to us in person and happened to put into a book as well

Sam you’ve had an impact on me. I definitely think of you as a mentor, and a friend in a lot of ways you have influenced the way that I do things.

I also have a good friend who used to run Eleven Madison Park, which was named the number one restaurant in the world under his leadership. He’s coming out with a book called Unreasonable Hospitality. So, I’m going to point to hospitality books.

Hopefully, there are people listening that could take those lessons and put them into their practices because hospitality is everything. If you care about people and you’re going to have genuine empathy, you’re going to have a happy life.

Sam’s Corner [30:25]

Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody, Sam Jacobs. Love that conversation with Brandon Barton, a great CEO, first-time CEO stepping into the shoes. He was hired at Bite as COO and got promoted.

He’s done many great things to drive the company forward. He also brings authenticity and vulnerability. He’s managed many transitions incredibly well. I also just think it’s really interesting that he started off in hospitality, but before that, he was an engineer. He brings both a structured set of systems orientation to the concept of creating an incredible experience for people, and he learned that under Danny Meyer.

Brandon was the beverage director at Tabla and then moved on to Resy, where he built the sales organization almost from the bottom up.

What’s happening in the restaurant industry is incredibly interesting. There’s this labor shortage worldwide, so you punch in your order on the screen, and then it comes out later. And for better or for worse, it’s often a better experience.

You have the ability to review all of your options very clearly on the screen. I think what’s happening in the restaurant space is really fascinating. I think Bite’s doing incredibly interesting work, so I really enjoyed that conversation

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