Many of us work in and around an amazing food mecca, such as Chicago, New York City or San Francisco. Today, even smaller cities have great food hubs, too. Most of the amazing eateries in these areas are within walking distance of the office, yet there is never enough time to actually enjoy dining out during a lunch break. Even if given the luxury of an hour for lunch, it can still be difficult to try new restaurants or get a good meal in any city during that typical “lunch hour.” Most of us walk by these restaurants, glance inside and then settle for a quick salad or to-go sandwich.
Phil LaColla, founder and CEO of Alocito, felt the same way when he was working in downtown Chicago. Bored with the same sandwich option every day, Phil wanted to upgrade his 30-minute lunch experience. He dreamed about getting out of the office and dining at one of the many local restaurants that serves delicious food. Like many other professionals in the city, he didn’t have enough time to wait for a table, order his food, eat the meal, and then wait again to pay.
Drawing on his years of experience in the restaurant industry in various roles from server to cook, Phil in 2015 came up with the idea of an online dining service that removes the wait times in restaurants. Going back to his hometown roots, he launched Alocito (Latin for “feed quickly”) in the Detroit metro area. The web-based food ordering and reservation service speeds up the dining experience by providing customers with the ability to pre-pay and pre-order meals at restaurants, drastically cutting down the time it takes to eat out.
Starting Alocito in the Detroit metro area is proving to be a smart move. Earlier this year, Detroit’s restaurant scene was singled out as the most “surprising” food destination in North America by National Geographic magazine, which stated "the city better known as a center for automakers and manufacturing is revving its culinary motors."
While the business is taking off in Detroit, Phil is looking ahead.
“I have always surrounded myself with a strong network of mentors and advisors in both business and life,” said Phil. “Creating an advisory board with deep restaurant and technology experience seemed like the next step to help grow my business. To speed the process for finding interested and qualified candidates, I turned to The ExecRanks to start the search.”
The ExecRanks team worked with Phil to determine the criteria for his advisory board. Finding executives with strong ties to the restaurant industry and/or a deep understanding of startups was the top priority. Specifically, he wanted candidates who could advise on technology, sales and training, operations and industry networking. Phil emphasized that having board advisors with industry connections is extremely important for building strategic business alliances.
Within days of joining The ExecRanks, Phil started receiving applications from leading executives around the country. The ExecRanks Board Services team scheduled Phil to participate in its Advisor Days — think “speed dating” for executives — and connected Phil with the standout candidates who were interested in Alocito.
Within a couple months, Phil connected with three candidates he considered a good fit, and made them offers to join his advisory board. A week or so later, The ExecRanks Board Search team set up an interview with one more candidate and Phil landed his fourth and final member of the advisory board.
Alocito’s advisory board is quite impressive. Three board advisors are senior executives with experience at some of the most recognized restaurant brands on the planet including McDonald’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Johnny Rockets, and the fourth is an accomplished technology executive from global information solutions powerhouse Equifax. Garnering advice from executives with these legendary backgrounds is like gold for a young company like Alocito.
“Advisory boards help CEOs with the tough problems, fill-in strategy gaps, make key introductions and generally provide knowledge support to make a business better,” said Jonathan Aspatore, founder and CEO at The ExecRanks. “I am thrilled Phil LaColla turned to The ExecRanks to find his advisory board, and we wish him much success. We are changing the game for how companies, like Alocito, connect with executives proactively looking to fill these critical board seats.”
Let’s get to know Alocito’s advisory board.
Peter Hegele has been on Alocito’s advisory board since January. Peter is chief operating officer and vice president of Blackfinn Ameripub and COO of Vida Cantina, as well as former vice president of operations and franchise relations for Buffalo Wild Wings. He has a demonstrated background in franchising, operations, and strategic planning in restaurant, catering and nightclubs. Peter joined The ExecRanks to share his experience as a board member and to spark his intellectual curiosity beyond his everyday business responsibilities.
“It's gratifying to work with an early stage company, like Alocito, where my input on how to market and brand a young company can lead to positive results for the business,” said Peter. “I have enjoyed bullet-proofing new product ideas and making intros to potential business partners to help Alocito expand into other metro markets.”
Also on the advisory board for Alocito is Jim Kensinger, vice president of Johnny Rockets. As vice president of operations and training at Johnny Rockets, Jim is helping overhaul the brand to transform the iconic nostalgic diner to a modern restaurant of the future. The company currently is testing self-ordering kiosks powered by iPads, designed to speed up service for diners waiting for tables or looking for takeout. Jim joined The ExecRanks to connect with companies at the board level, and he had several goals in mind. Jim wanted to work with businesses that provide solutions that apply practical experience and sell products that are simple to use. Alocito’s on-demand dining experience is a service solution that he could see using “first-hand,” and Jim believes he can employ his contacts and franchise expertise to help Alocito establish itself in other markets.
“The ExecRanks connected me with my first board position, and it's a great fit,” said Jim. “Working with Phil LaColla and the advisory board gives me the forum to apply 35 years of restaurant experience to a business that is simplifying and enhancing the dining experience for restaurant patrons. The biggest thrill will be seeing Alocito grow into a huge success, and know that I contributed to the efforts.”
Another goal for joining The ExecRanks is that Jim wanted to expand his contact base and become an established board member.
“Managing a full-time career doesn’t leave much time to seek other opportunities like board roles,” said Jim. “The ExecRanks platform enables me to narrow searches that are best suited for my background, and sends alerts when I need to respond to an opportunity. I look forward to joining more boards using The ExecRanks.”
Gangadhar Kotte is the third board advisor for Alocito, and brings a different perspective to the table: hands-on engineering and technology operations expertise. Gangadhar oversees software development, IT and data center functions, quality assurance and support operations as vice president of technology for Equifax, a global information solutions company. Gangadhar plays a critical role on Alocito’s advisory board with his abilities to provide an analytical point of view into a business’ technology needs and strategies for execution.
“It is great to see a young startup with a good idea, and rewarding to advise on the execution path that will lead the company to success,” Gangadhar said. “Participating on this particular board is a great opportunity for me broaden the scope of what I do and apply my deep-breadth of technology knowledge to Alocito’s core business technology needs.”
Rick Colón, the next member of Alocito’s board of advisors, is an established Fortune 500 executive and sits on the board of directors for several major nonprofit medical organizations. He is the former president of the east division of McDonald’s USA, which generated more than $16 billion in annual revenue under his leadership. Rick also serves as Chair for the Board of Directors for St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Florida, and sits on the Board of Directors for Baycare Health System.
Rick joined The ExecRanks to diversify his board experience, expand his traditional network and get involved with boards of startup companies. With more than 38 years of experience in McDonald’s vast organization, Rick has a diverse skill-set in a variety of disciplines from sales and marketing to implementing strong business operations. These attributes are invaluable resources for an emerging company.
The ExecRanks introduced Rick to the CEO of Alocito, and the company appeared to be a perfect fit, but Rick had his own criteria for choosing the right board advisor role for his goals and background.
“When interviewing for a board position at a startup, I look hard at the leader behind the big idea,” said Rick. “While the business concept of Alocito is extremely intriguing, Phil’s vision, thought process and how he articulated his business strategy is what impressed me the most. I am thrilled to have been offered a board position at Alocito.”
The ExecRanks was able to open doors to companies outside Rick’s normal circle of contacts. The platform allowed him to proactively narrow his search to match his credentials with startups in specific industries.
“The ExecRanks helped me find exactly what I was looking for in my next board position,” he said. “Once the match was made, The ExecRanks team scheduled interviews in a timely manner and were professional and thorough throughout the entire process. I would not have found this incredible board opportunity without The ExecRanks.”
Starting a business is extremely hard work, and even the most capable and passionate CEOs appreciate receiving trusted advice from their advisory board. When used effectively, an advisory board can be an incredible asset to moving the company forward. Board members can have a huge impact on both the CEO and the company, and in this case, Alocito is in great hands with this exceptional board of advisors.
“Many thanks to The ExecRanks for helping me find this distinguished group of board advisors,” said Phil. “I would not have come across these individuals using my traditional, professional network. I am already seeing how the knowledge value that each person brings to the table is positively impacting the company’s direction and growth.”
The Alocito advisory board:
Image of Phil LaColla by Jennifer Legba / Images of Food by Mack Avenue Marketing // Courtesy of Alocito