By Naeisha Rose
Earlier this year, eight business owners within and near downtown Jamaica had the opportunity attend a two-day technology boot camp sponsored by Goldman Sachs and Con Edison.
The goal was to improve their businesses thanks to a Progress Playbook and Greater Jamaica Development Corporation program called “ResTech: Mastering the ‘IT’ of HospITality!”
The first ResTech cohort had eight-hour classes Sept. 24 and Sept. 25 at The Harvest Room, located at 90-40 160th St. in Jamaica. They were managed by Brendez Wineglass, a project manager for Small Business Services.
Greater Jamaica Development Corporation is community development organization in Downtown Jamaica, while Progress Playbook is a provider of educational tools for entrepreneurs and Small Business Services is a city agency dedicated to helping local firms.
“Essentially I had the opportunity to take a grant from Goldman Sachs and Con Edison to support businesses in a growing Jamaica,” said Wineglass. “When I thought about a program I immediately thought about the restaurants that reside here and the ecosystem of small businesses and mom and pop shops that have been here for a number of years.”
With development soaring in Jamaica and 15 hotels expected to open in the area by 2019 bringing more than 4,800 bedroom units, there will be more foot traffic for the downtown region and local businesses, according to Wineglass. She wants to aid those business owners in being prepared for new clientele.
“To equip these small businesses to really take advantage of these changes, I thought that a program that used technology to really optimize their business and workflow would be really quintessential in their success moving forward,” said Wineglass.
The tech boot camp focused on point-of-sales, delivery applications and web presence on the first day, according to Wineglass. The second day was concentrated on customer service, work force development, best practices and de-escalation practices.
“One of the things that I would like to implement are the coupons,” said restaurateur Tyler Thomas of Rincon Salvadoreno, a Latin restaurant specializing in tamales and pupusas. “That will beneficial to our business… and bring more customers.”
Despite the boot camp lasting only two days, one aspect of it that Dawn Kelly — the owner of the healthy eating business The Nourish Spot Inc. in Jamaica — will take away is the networking opportunity from meeting other restaurateurs from the community.
“I learned that I’m not alone in terms of the challenges I face as a small business owner,” said Kelly. “Being in a room with other small business owners in southeast Queens I learned that food delivery is an issue for us.”
All the business owners who attended the meeting expressed wanting to use GrubHub, an online mobile food-ordering company for local diners, but the firm has little to no drivers in that section of Queens, according to Kelly.
“We are not able to service the biggest delivery application in the United States,” said Kelly. “Together we are going to gently encourage that company to do better on behalf of us, because it is hampering our ability to… make as much revenue as we possibly can because we are stymied by the fact that we don’t have access to their customer base.”
Kelly said the restaurateurs also intend to share and bounce ideas off of each other, and hope to do some economy of sale to save money by buying food items together.
“We have a vested interest in all of us doing well,” said Kelly.
Wineglass intends on doing a second boot camp in Spring 2019.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose