• February 22, 2016
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

The 2016 CRM Service Elite: Hogsalt Hospitality

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Famed Chicago restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff opened his first Chicago restaurant, Gilt Bar, in 2010. Since then, Sodikoff's company, Hogsalt Hospitality, has expanded its portfolio to include 10 other Chicago eateries offering everything from French and Japanese cuisine to chops, seafood, coffee, and doughnuts. The company serves thousands of guests each day across all of its locations.

As the restaurants grew in popularity, many potential patrons were having a hard time getting in simply because they couldn't get through to make reservations. At some locations, as many as 120 or 130 phone calls per day could be missed.

Because several of the company's more popular restaurants only serve dinner, employees don't usually show up for work until the early afternoon. "We were getting a lot of calls that went unanswered because no one was there," says Ryan Wagner, director of operations at Hogsalt. "Or people would leave messages and then when the managers arrived, they'd get busy and the calls would not get returned."

The company wanted to change that quickly. "As our restaurants became more popular, we wanted to accommodate more people without having to hire a huge staff to answer the calls," Wagner says.

So in January 2015 Hogsalt began rolling out an interactive voice response (IVR) and call distributor solution from fellow Chicagoans DialogTech in four of its restaurants: Bavette's, Gilt Bar, Maude's, and Cocello. Cocello has since closed, so only three restaurants are currently on the system.

"Just because your doors are closed doesn't mean your phones have to be," says Irv Shapiro, CEO of DialogTech. "The customer buying journey doesn't have hours of operation, which is why DialogTech empowers our customers to properly track, route, and manage phone calls at any time of day."

DialogTech's voice-based technology is helping Hogsalt capture an additional $75,000 in revenue monthly from reservation calls that it previously missed. The system fields about 12,500 calls per month.

Now, all calls that come in during regular business hours get routed to a central location that is staffed by two hourly employees.

Before one of the agents picks up a call, DialogTech's system lets that agent know which restaurant the caller dialed in to. The agent can then deliver the appropriate greeting, take the reservation, and enter it into a central reservation system. In the event a caller can’t get through to an agent, he can leave a voicemail message that the system transcribes and emails to the respective restaurant manager.

And when one restaurant can't accommodate a guest at the requested time, the agent can sell the caller on one of Hogsalt's other properties. As a result, "we're seeing positive trends in sales at all our restaurants," Wagner says.

Hogsalt's two reservation agents currently work from a central office, but DialogTech's cloud-based technology would enable them to work remotely if necessary.

When he was researching IVR and call routing solutions, Wagner found that many vendors would have required Hogsalt to purchase new and costly hardware. DialogTech won out because it allowed Hogsalt to keep its phone system in place. "We liked [that] there's no hardware associated with it," Wagner says. "We didn't have to change anything. We just called them up and the lines were ported over." DialogTech's initial setup cost was another big reason the company won the account.

It took roughly two months to get there, but by March 2015, the DialogTech system at Hogsalt was "a well-oiled machine," Wagner says.

"Now Hogsalt is equipped with the tools needed to receive and book every reservation requested," DialogTech's Shapiro says. "We're proud of the contribution DialogTech has made toward Hogsalt's continued success."

If the boost in business leads to the opening of more restaurants, Wagner says Hogsalt will certainly add them to the DialogTech system. "We’ve been very happy with the solution so far," he says.


  • 12,500 calls per month handled that previously went unanswered;
  • approximately $75,000 in additional revenue each month; and
  • positive sales trends across all 11 restaurants it owns.

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