BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Two and a half years ago, a Hollywood-based actor and producer channeled his years spent waiting tables to develop the Waiter Wallet, an organizational product for servers.
The product gained some steam, but its potential was stifled because of limitations related to the one-person enterprise.
Now, the Waiter Wallet and a related venture have become unlikely phoenixes to rise from the Fourmile Fire.
A Boulder man who lost his home in the 2010 blaze has partnered with the Waiter Wallet’s developer, relocated the company here and advanced efforts to bolster adoption within the restaurant industry.
Actor and producer Jonathan Schneider recently moved to Boulder to partner with former college buddy Herb Abbott on the Waiter Wallet and launch Lucky 13 Enterprises, a venture the two classify as a “think tank” to develop other products that could be industry game-changers.
“I think the innovation that we’ve brought to the server, we’re trying to bring to other aspects of the industry,” Schneider said.
The impetus for the Waiter Wallet stretches back 20 years to when Schneider moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. Prior to him taking a couple acting roles and producing a slew of “America’s Top Model” episodes, Schneider waited a lot of tables and spent a lot of time cramming his notes and receipts into an American Express check presenter.
“(Waiting) has its challenges and organization is one of them,” he said. “A waiter’s office is their person and they’ve got to hold a lot of stuff.”
The idea to organize the waiter’s notepad sat on the backburner until recently, when Schneider stepped away from show business. After playing around with some prototypes, he created a flip-open server book that included a notepad, a clear pocket for specials lists or notes, and pockets for cash and credit cards.
The seemingly simple effort garnered the attention of Bloomin’ Brands Inc., the operator of Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and also several thousand individual waiters.
“But it’s challenging … you get to a point where you get a bit stuck and don’t think you can move it forward unless you get someone else involved,” Schneider said.
Abbott’s involvement in Waiter Wallet came after a tumultuous time in the retired podiatrist and surgeon’s life.
Barely a year after he moved into Tyler Hamilton’s former home in Sunshine Canyon, Abbott and his fiancée spotted “crazy smoke” billowing nearby, and within a short period of time received a reverse 911 call to evacuate.
“I got together what I could,” Abbott said. “I got my dogs and got out of Dodge.”
The week when the couple was supposed to go to Paris to celebrate their engagement turned into a nightmare. The house was lost and the coming months were spent hopping from hotel to hotel, to apartment to house.
“I guess during this whole situation, with my family moving all around and lives being disrupted, I started to think about what to do with the rest of my life,” Abbott said.
After conversations with Schneider, the two moved forward on teaming up on Waiter Wallet. Schneider and the business moved to Boulder in October 2012.
In recent months, the duo stepped up efforts to get Waiter Wallet in several medium, large and “very large” restaurant chains; booked exhibitor space at the upcoming National Restaurant Show in Chicago; and moved forward on a new product — an iOS app — that is in development with Boulder’s QuickLeft.
“The possibilities are endless; there are countless restaurants and waiters in this world,” Abbott said.
Some of those restaurateurs and chains still remain very cautious with their spending, although there appears to be a loosening in recent years, said Ryan Lewis, CEO of Boulder-based Tundra Specialties, an international distributor of restaurant equipment.
During the height of the downturn, the common trend was for firms to invest in fixing existing equipment rather than buying new.
“The mentality is let’s work with what we have, let’s keep it going,” Lewis said.
Those spending habits have continued and extended to items such as accessories, he said.
“There are some exceptions … but on average, we saw a lot more of (those purchases) in the past than we do today,” he said.
LINK: Waiter Wallet
– By ALICIA WALLACE, Daily Camera
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