Pet fish, nap rooms and doodle walls are popular office perks in San Francisco Bay Area startups, but a local restaurant rewards company is also fostering that kind of laid-back culture at its new Sorrento Valley headquarters. (video)
Avid restaurant-goer Jon Carder launched Mogl because he was craving an incentive to return to the same San Diego spots to spend more on food and drink.
“There were loyalty programs, like punch cards, but no one had a card that made me want to come back,” said Carder, co-founder and CEO. “All were boring and not thought out really well.”
Mogl's “Eat Out, Cash In” motto means customers get 10 percent cash back any time they dine at a participating restaurant and pay with their registered debit or credit card.
The discreet and easy concept is catching on, and its 50,000-user network is expected to triple to 150,000 by the end of the year. Investors are drawn to the simple concept, and the year-old startup recently scored $10 million in venture capital funding.
Consumers compete to be the biggest spender at each restaurant or bar, with cash jackpots up to $300.
Spend $20 at a restaurant and Mogl gives a meal to someone in need through Feeding America San Diego, with 50,000 meals donated so far.
“It’s part game, part discount and part change the world,” said Carder, a 33-year-old serial entrepreneur and San Diego native who started four companies prior to Mogl.
He’s thankful for discount giants Groupon (Nasdaq: GRPN) and LivingSocial that paved the way, saturating the market with coupon shoppers and creating a need for loyalty.
“It’s good timing for us,” he said. “Now we are there to turn them from coupon shoppers to loyal customers.”
The company’s 600 partner restaurants span the California coastline, in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and, as of a few weeks ago, San Francisco. The company hopes to have 2,000 eateries on board by the end of 2012.
Users spent $500,000 in Mogl’s restaurant network in March alone, and that tab is growing 30 percent every month.
Carder calls the 7,000-square-foot office a “friend zone” that encourages a playful work environment among 50 employees.
“When people are happy, they work longer, harder and smarter,” he said.
Employees can take a break in the game room, playing foosball, darts and video games. A nearby bar, stocked with all types of liquors and libations, “gets a lot of use” on Friday afternoons, he said. (After hours, Carder can often be found with a margarita in hand at Poseidon restaurant, a Mogl partner in Del Mar.)
Employees work side by side at long communal tables, and each work station has a fish that employees name and feed to encourage responsibility.
Carder has two pets: a jellyfish on his desk and a French bulldog named Mo, who holds the title of Mogl’s mascot and spokesmodel.
“When I look at the jellyfish I become relaxed. Mo is the opposite of relaxing,” he joked.
Personalized desks are encouraged, with one “tree hugger-type” employee surrounded by plants.
Some employees choose to make sales calls while bouncing on an exercise ball.
“We don’t care what they sit in,” he said.
If employees get stressed, they can pop into the nap room with a timer and beds for a quick snooze. They don’t need to leave for a lunch break, because the kitchen is always stocked with food.
During a daily 15-minute huddle, employees get “props” and recognized for living the company’s values via a staff-wide cheer: “M-O-G-L, you did something really well!”
“It’s super cheesy, but it gives people the energy to get their day started right,” he said.
Walls are covered in whiteboard paint, so employees can brainstorm, draw and express themselves.
“They grab a Sharpie and go to town," he said. "It’s freeing because you aren’t supposed to write on walls, but here, you can.”
The service plans to land in New York, Seattle and Portland after the next round of funding closes in early 2013.
9645 Scranton Rd. Ste., 110
San Diego, CA 92121