Meredith Sandland, CEO of Empower Delivery, received Hospitality Technology’s Top Women in Restaurant Technology Innovator Award at MURTEC.
Sandland was among 15 women recognized for their accomplishments. Hospitality Technology's Top Women in Restaurant Technology Awards, sponsored by Paerpay, are now in their seventh year.
Sandland has a focus and passion for improving restaurant delivery efficiency. She is the co-founder of this software company along with Chris Baggot. Born from ClusterTruck, the vertically integrated virtual restaurant and ghost kitchen, Empower Delivery is a software company that enables delivery-centric restaurants to profitably and sustainably serve off-premise demand. In her role, she works with independent restaurateurs who want to operate multi-concept, delivery-optimized kitchens to help them shape the future of delivery.
Sandland’s career in restaurant technology began by happenstance. “A career in restaurant technology chose me,” Sandland explains. “ I ended up in restaurants by accident - which I think is the way most people do. My accident was interviewing with Greg Creed and Melissa Lora at Taco Bell. They are such remarkable people that I wanted to work with them and learn from them.”
At Taco Bell, Sandland was able to work on strategy, development and international growth. “This work led me to restaurant technology and ghost kitchens. With so much innovation and disruption occurring in restaurant technology right now, this corner of the industry is perfect for my passions.”
“I am always drawn to new ideas and turnarounds - any interesting situation,” Sandland explains. She’s excited about technology that creates better outcomes for the user. “In restaurants, this means a better work environment for employees and better food more conveniently available at a lower cost for consumers,” she adds. “Technology has the power to dramatically improve the lives of both restaurant employees and consumers. Because the restaurant industry is at the front end of digitization, many new technologies have been introduced in a piecemeal fashion - making one part of employee satisfaction or customer engagement better. As the technology providers take a more holistic approach, the entire restaurant business model will improve for all stakeholders.”
“Empower Delivery takes this approach, and as a result everyone using the technology is better off - employees, drivers, consumers, restaurant brands. I envision a future where technology improves the restaurant business model so much that consumers get 40% of their dollar back in food – compared to industry average of 30% today – while employees are better-paid and restaurants are more profitable. It may sound crazy - but technology makes this possible.”
Looking ahead, Sandland says she’s most excited about holistic tech solutions, marketing technology to automate some of the ecommerce functions that restaurants are starting to implement, and voice and vision AI.
The Value of Mentorship
Along the way, mentorship has planted an important role in Sandland’s career. “I have benefitted a great deal from leaders who have taken the time to teach me - notably Melissa Lora in the restaurant industry. It's important for each of us to pass on our lessons - both in work and in life - to others. Particularly for those of us in some kind of work minority - gender, race, disability status, etc. - we have a responsibility to publicly demonstrate what any individual is capable of doing and to teach others the skills and confidence to do it themselves.”
Looking back over her career, Sandland says she’s most proud of co-authoring the two Delivering the Digital Restaurant books with Carl Orsbourn. “Any author will tell you that writing a book is a huge undertaking, and seeing it out in the world feels great. But this book represents an opportunity to share what we've learned with the entire industry. Carl and I have had the rare opportunity to work at the forefront of innovation. We also had the privilege of speaking with many industry executives in both restaurants and technology. Being able to share the perspectives of so many leaders with the entire industry has been fun and rewarding."
About the Awards
After a call for nominations, Top Women in Restaurant Technology Award winners were chosen by Hospitality Technology magazine and members of its Research Advisory Board. The winners were announced and honored during an awards program on March 8 at the 28th annual MURTEC (Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference), in Las Vegas. Read about the Top Women in Restaurant Technology 2023 honorees here.