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UW grads create app to redefine the way we dine out

YoEats will launch in mid-July and offers users the ability to rate individual menu items in real time, as well as pay from their mobile device at participating restaurants, so no more waiting for the check.

YoEats co-founders Clay Burdelik, Chris Betagole, and Brandon Humboldt.

YoEats co-founders Clay Burdelik, Chris Betagole, and Brandon Humboldt.

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How many times have you gone to pay your bill at a restaurant and the server seems to just disappear with your credit card while you wait, and wait, and wait — all so you can just sign your name?

Or how about when you try a new restaurant and the menu just overwhelms you with options — none of which you can be certain will meet with your tastes, even if they all sound delicious?

A new mobile app designed by UW–Madison grads will launch this summer aimed at alleviating those dilemmas and much more. YoEats bills itself as the world’s first and only intelligent point of sale (POS) application, and to listen to CEO and Co-Founder Clay Burdelik tell it, the app could soon redefine the way we dine out.

“I had so many frustrations working in the restaurant industry, and I [even] missed a train as the result of a waiter who went MIA,” says Burdelik. “I said, ‘It’s absolutely crazy that I can’t pay this from my phone.’ I was thinking about how I could pay a taxi (Uber) from my phone but not a multimillion-dollar enterprise? It was so ironic. Everyone is paying from his or her phone. Amazon, Uber, EatStreet — we’re even depositing checks from our phone. The only time you ever have to hand your card to anyone today is at restaurants. Then it’s this back-and-forth process that is so wasteful and time consuming.”

According to Burdelik, there are other apps trying to get into mobile payments but they’re in their infancy. YoEats has a few key differentiators including personalized menu generation.

“We help every user order the optimal item in each restaurant and then we collect itemized customer feedback,” notes Burdelik. “This helps us learn about the user’s palate and deliver unprecedented insights to restaurant owners. Yelp appeals to a niche market. As the result of mobile payments, we appeal to the masses and collect a much more accurate representation of consumer sentiment.”

Starters

Burdelik had the idea for YoEats but first he needed some help.

Growing up in Chicago, Burdelik’s family always took advantage of the rich food scene. He was immersed in the environment from a young age and worked every front-of-the-house position imaginable in restaurants. “I saw firsthand the inefficiencies of the restaurant business and the frustrations that they cause.”

Burdelik studied entrepreneurship and management at UW–Madison and graduated in three years, in 2017, in order to pursue YoEats.

“I had done the market research, built the business plan, and was set on finding partners to build the platform,” recounts Burdelik. “I was at the Churchkey one night and saw my friend, whom I had met freshman year. He lived across the hall from me on Sellery 6b. I asked him if any of his friends were computer science (CS) majors and he introduced me to Chris Betagole. Chris and I agreed to get coffee and he brought his roommate, Brandon Humboldt, along.

“We discussed the idea and felt very comfortable with each other’s personalities and complimentary skill sets,” continues Burdelik . “That was April 2017. Since then we have added another developer and multiple adjunct team members and volunteers, including restaurant and tech advisors, advertisement specialists, web developers, and sales staff. Many will come on full-time once it’s financially viable.”

Humboldt is the lead back-end developer for YoEats. He grew up in rural Neillsville, Wisconsin, and taught himself how to build computers when he was 8 years old and started his own computer company at the age of 13. Graduating from UW–Madison in 2018 with a degree in computer science, Humboldt previously held positions as the UW Department of IT (DOIT) help desk lead, as well as completing a development internship for Sony in Madison.

Betagole, who grew up in Cincinnati, is the UI & UX lead for YoEats. He has worked for multiple area development firms doing front-end development, and he graduated in 2018 from UW–Madison with a computer engineering degree.

As for their motivations to start a company, each of the three co-founders had longstanding desires to build something from scratch, just in different ways.

“I have always had the entrepreneurial spirit,” notes Burdelik. “I was always having lemonade stands and car washes as a kid. I quickly learned the value of social entrepreneurship when I started charging $3 for a cup of lemonade so I could donate it to Hurricane Katrina relief. Other kids were selling cups for 25 cents. My grandpa was an inventor, my parents started their own business, and I just always had the itch to be innovative and do my own thing. Working my summer internship definitely taught me that I didn't want to go the traditional route.”

“I always had the itch,” Humboldt says. “I started my own computer company when I was 13. That being said, where we are is definitely a product of the team. But yeah, I always had visions of starting my own software consulting firm.”

“It was an organic process,” explains Betagole. “I always wanted to build something but not a business. I’m an engineer, not a business guy.”

(Continued)

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