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A Colorado Springs company that processes restaurant takeout and delivery phone orders from customers around the country has seen its business skyrocket since the COVID-19 pandemic, and now plans to add 240 employees to its nearly 1,000-person workforce to handle its soaring workload.

SYNQ3 Restaurant Solutions, formerly Stellar Restaurant Solutions, already had seen an increase in business over the last few years as restaurants expanded carryout and delivery options, said company CEO Steve Bigari.

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But since Colorado and others states temporarily banned dining-room service and imposed stay-at-home orders to halt the spread of the coronavirus, more people are calling their favorite restaurants to order carryout and delivery service — and SYNQ3 has seen a spike in business as a result, Bigari said.

Calls that had numbered 80,000 to 100,000 a day now have surged well over 100,000 and on some days have reached 200,000, Bigari said. SYNQ3’s roster of restaurant clients in the U.S. and Canada includes more than 30 marquee brands, such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews, Noodles & Co. and Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill + Bar; their locations number in the thousands.

“Now we just can’t hire enough people to meet the demand,” said Bigari.

Customers who phone restaurants to purchase food via carryout or delivery might have their calls routed to SYNQ3’s operation in Colorado Springs, which employs a little more than 500 people. SYNQ3 also expanded two years ago to Oklahoma City, Okla., where nearly 400 employees work.

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When calls are routed to SYNQ3, customers have the option of talking with an employee or having their order taken by SYNQ3’s automated systems that use artificial intelligence to assist callers.

Those highly sophisticated systems have been designed to respond and adapt to callers — offering them an opportunity to repeat a previous order, for example, or even picking up on the tone of their voice to better assist them in ordering.

Some of SYNQ3’s restaurants have all customer orders routed directly to the company’s employees; others might use a hybrid combination of employees and automated systems to field calls, Bigari said.

SYNQ3 is adding employees who will answer calls and talk directly with customers. The company also is hiring “intent analysts” — employees who remain in the background to monitor calls that come to the automated systems. Intent analysts assist the automated systems to help clarify a customer’s order and might, in rare cases, come on the phone line when additional help is needed.

“Everything we do with automation requires people,” Bigari said.

The 240 employees to be hired will be split between Colorado Springs and Oklahoma City, Bigari said. Local workers start at $12.10 an hour; they also receive performance-based bonuses of up to $400 a month and receive raises as they learn new skills. New hires in Oklahoma City are paid more than $10 an hour.

To apply for jobs at SYNC3, go to https://synq3.com/careers.

SYNQ3 plans to retain the new hires after the pandemic subsides, Bigari said.

“God willing, we’re just going to keep growing,” he said. “This is only going to accelerate the trend that existed pre-COVID. So, we were growing before; we’re just going to grow. None of these people are being hired into temporary jobs.”

The company also is adding employees who have been furloughed by some of its restaurant partners; those workers will return to their restaurant jobs when conditions improve, Bigari said.

“But then we’ll have to replace them,” he said.

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SYNQ3 operates in Colorado Springs at a call center at 5825 Mark Dabling Blvd. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 80% of employees were telecommuting; for the last several weeks, however, all employees have worked from home, Bigari said. In Oklahoma City, the company has an office for hiring and administrative needs, but employees always have worked from home.

Hiring new employees isn’t as easy as it sounds, Bigari said. Classroom training with a large group of people is out; virtual training is in.

Some job applicants will have their own personal computers, but the company will have to buy machines for other workers — and distribute them while observing social distancing and other safeguards, he said.

“It’s really great that the restaurants can stay open,” Bigari said. “We’re a great facilitator of that.”

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