From Accidental Restaurateur to Banking Innovator

Chris Accrue and Joe Biden

What do the hospitality industry and digital banking transformation have in common? For me, the answer is innovation. 

Almost 20 years ago, I was one of Salesforce’s early employees. My time at Salesforce was spent building software that was designed to make people’s lives easier through an emphasis on customer experience, automation, and integration. But software wasn’t my only passion; in my spare time, I also pursued my dream of restaurant ownership — and that moonlighting gig quickly developed into something bigger. The week before opening my second and third restaurants, I left my job at Salesforce and spent the next 10+ years as a restaurateur. 

Throughout my time in the hospitality industry, one thing never changed: my passion for using technology to solve problems. From automating my restaurants’ processes to creating a loyalty and rewards application for hospitality businesses, I never really lost sight of the powerful role technology had to play in improving customer experience and enabling businesses to work smarter, not harder. And it was during my time as a restaurateur that I uncovered a big problem I believed I could solve: the need for digital transformation in banking. 

As a restaurant owner, I applied for my share of loans, and something I saw in banks — from large, national financial institutions all the way down to single-branch community banks — was a lack of anything that makes for a pleasant experience as a borrower. There was zero digitization, zero online services, no document management, and a lack of transparency that left customers in the dark at a time when they were seeking funds to expand their business, or even keep it afloat. 

I quickly realized that there was an opportunity to improve and digitize the lending process both for borrowers and for bankers, using the lessons I’d learned from my time at Salesforce, from keeping tabs on the tech industry, and from my own experiences digitizing processes at my restaurants. So I started doing some consulting for banks to try to learn more about the problems they faced, the solutions that were currently available, and how I could use my technology background to help. 

What I found was the need for a digital banking and lending platform that would streamline and automate processes, making for a faster, smoother experience from start to finish for borrowers in an increasingly digital world. And so, I founded Accrue with the support of my friend Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square, and Jeff Hanson and Lee Farabaugh, co-founders of Core10, a software integration company that specializes in banking systems

It turns out it wasn’t a moment too soon. Just as I was putting the finishing touches on Accrue and preparing to list my restaurants for sale, the pandemic hit. All of a sudden, digital transformation wasn’t just a long-term goal for banks, it was an immediate need — and thankfully we were ready. Banks quickly found that they could no longer choose to live in the 1990s with their processes; they actually had to evolve because they could no longer see their customers in person, and I’m proud to say that Accrue is here to make it happen. 

I like to say that I was sort of an accidental restaurateur — I never really planned to own restaurants (or at least own 15 of them over the years); I’ve always been a technologist at heart. But the experiences I’ve had running my restaurants and finding ways to innovate those processes have been integral to building Accrue. I’m excited to have found a way to use my technology background and my hospitality experience to help banks grow their business while delivering the digital banking experiences their customers want.

Learn more about how Accrue can help you, in the same way I’ve seen it help me.