Our Meet the Merchant series features Q&As with real-world Clover merchants. Read our full catalog for innovative ideas and real-life stories of small businesses in action.
In this installment, we chat with Bob Devine, a co-owner of From The Boot, a chain of Italian restaurants in the greater Philadelphia area. From The Boot has offered delicious Italian-American favorites for over 20 years. Bob shares his history with the restaurants, why they are uniquely suited to adapt during the Coronavirus pandemic, and why Clover is the right point-of-sale system for them.
Clover: Hi, Bob. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. How did From the Boot get started?
Bob Devine: The From the Boot concept began in 1999 in Lafayette Hill. That’s our original location, and it began as strictly a carryout restaurant. It had two little booths up front and a big carryout counter. It was founded by the Ciaffone family, Nick Ciaffone and his brother, Mark. I grew up with them. I feel like I’m part of the family, even though I’m of Irish descent.
It’s an Italian-American concept, and there’s a little bit of something for everyone. It’s really family-friendly and wide ranging—salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and entree dinners to make everyone happy.
Clover: So From the Boot actually started out as a carryout only restaurant?
Devine: Yes! The idea was to start out small and introduce the concept to the community. Of course, the success of the concept is really rooted in the quality and consistency of the product. But it’s also true that in this area, and a lot of suburban communities, people believe that you’re either an Italian restaurant—more upscale with a focus on coursed meals—or you’re just a pizzeria. You don’t see the dual concept under one roof with great regularity.
Over the years, the original location evolved, and in 2002 it expanded to become a full-service restaurant with 46 seats. I came on board in 2006 with the task of expanding the concept. So in 2009, we opened our Ambler location, which was a full-service restaurant with 80 seats upstairs, plus a wine cellar party room that can accommodate up to 80 guests, and two full-service bars. In 2011, we opened our Blue Bell location, which is a BYO concept with a wood-burning oven for our pizzas.
Clover: Tell us why you chose Clover and how you use it.
Devine: We started using Clover only after the pandemic hit. I felt like we were not as efficient as we would have needed to be if we did get busy, working with fewer staff and shifting back to all takeout. The look and functionality of the terminal was a huge improvement over our previous payments processing system. There was an immediate positive impact on our business—the Clover Menufy app helped with processing payment, and took pressure off our telephone lines.
After we had to shut down, we started organizing our own in-house delivery. We have two delivery people a night, sometimes three on the weekends. So we’re actually offering no-contact delivery, free of charge, which our clients love. Moving to Menufy allowed us to take the pressure off the phones and really focus on the service elements of our business— helping our clients feel comfortable, monitoring quality of product, offering efficient curbside pickup.
Clover: That’s great to hear. How has the pandemic impacted your business?
Devine: We’ve come up with a TV dinner concept. We’ve gotten three-compartment carryout containers, and we introduced the concept as a dinner special one night. [People really like it] so now we’re looking into offering a TV dinner each night of the week. For example, Saturday night TV dinner is grilled salmon, Friday night is shrimp parmesan, etc. Dinner comes with protein, vegetable, and starch.
We’re getting the facility approved by the FDA and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, because we see this evolving into a manufacturing and packaging concept. And we’re using Clover and Menufy to support this new initiative. So when guests open up Menufy, it pops up as the night’s special. You can order the special online for a fair price, and we’re hoping to produce them daily for the local markets.
Clover: And the shift back to all takeout again, how is that going?
Devine: We approach our carryout in the same way we approach plating a dish in the restaurant. That’s our philosophy with our kitchen staff, our front-of-the-house staff, our to-go staff, and counter staff. We want to offer the same level of service whether someone is coming in to pick up food or we are going tableside to serve somebody.
I feel like that experience and that approach allowed us to adapt. Lafayette Hill started out as a carryout restaurant, and our other locations have always had that same philosophy and capability. So it’s always been part of our makeup.
In terms of our people, I feel very blessed that we were able to bring back the majority of our kitchen staff and a couple of our full-time management staff. But what I did was ask our staff who wanted to work. We have a large number of students—part-time workers that handle front-of-the-house operations. I was able to hire a pretty good percentage of our staff. I’d say we’ve probably seen a 40% loss in revenue, but a 50% drop in payroll. That’s going to allow us to survive and get through this.
Clover: What’s next for From The Boot?
Devine: I feel like we’ve been able to adapt pretty well, and I believe we’re going to survive and get through this. I consider it a success to be able to say that. We’ve also ramped up our community service: we donated lunches to local organizations, the first responders, and more. So that’s where we see ourselves hopefully becoming more active.