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New delivery option in town

A community-minded entrepreneur is making delivery a profitable option for independents


February 12, 2021
By Naomi Szeben

Topics
Not-UberEats.com is an easy-to-navigate website displaying contact information and menu links for restaurants that provide their own delivery. Photo: CLASSICO LOUIE’S PIZZERIA / NOT-UBEREATS.COM

When Randy Singh was looking for a place to order food a few months ago, he saw the connection between high food delivery fees, and struggling restaurants.

He began to worry that his favourite local eateries might not be able to survive the pandemic. A software developer for the Scotiabank Digital Factory, Singh decided he was going to do something about it: He knew the power of a consistent online presence, and knew that businesses which were wired for social media would be the ones to survive.

“I was reading articles about how there’s so many restaurants in the area closing down and a lot of these delivery companies are charging really high commissions. And I really wanted to see if there was a way around it, like offering their own delivery service . . . and build a tool where you can actually find the ones that are offering their own delivery.”

“It will end up saving both the customer and the restaurant fees, so it’s actually a lot cheaper to order. More money goes into the restaurant’s pockets once you order directly.” Singh recruited the help of his Scotiabank workmate, Associate Product Manager, Gamaliel Obinyan. Neither Obinyan nor Singh received any funding or sponsorship to create Not-UberEats, nor is it affiliated with Scotiabank in any way.

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They created an easy-to-navigate website, which Obinyan began populating with contact information and menu links for restaurants that provide their own delivery. Just like that, Not-UberEats.com was born.

Crowd-sourced tools for local promotion
The duo was inspired by existing crowd-sourced software, like not-Amazon.com. “It’s really great to see how it puts money into the hands of others. It’s part of where I got the inspiration from,” said Singh. “For example, Ubereats takes 30 per cent for an order just under $17. On top of that, they’ll charge you a delivery fee, or they’ll charge your service fees, and then your final bill’s a lot higher than you would anticipate. But when you order directly, that entire cost is actually going directly to the restaurant, and you’re paying usually a fair price for the delivery. Sometimes it actually works out to be cheaper because you’re not paying those extra service fees and delivery fees on your order.”

The main requirement would be for the business to have a website with clear instructions on how to contact them, such as phone and email. A menu site works particularly well with photos, so having a clear, well-lit and artfully arranged photos of goods is crucial. Many might find funding and technical help through the Digital Main Street grants, an initiative to help bricks-and-mortar business go online.

Getting your business ready for delivery
Ensuring that your restaurant is delivery-ready is one thing; ensuring delivery is cost-effective is another. Restaurants Canada’s webinar, “Emerging With a Profitable Business in 2021” explored how food industries that didn’t consider delivery fared in the pandemic landscape. Among their list of speakers was Andrew Waddington from fsSTRATEGY Inc., a consulting firm for the food industry who discussed the pros and cons of food delivery.

Waddington noted that the biggest challenge for restaurants was lack of cost controls and ensuring that food set out for delivery takes travel, time to unpack and took simple assembly or reheating into consideration. “There will be certain dishes that you should never add to delivery, because they’re the classics that people come to a restaurant for. But for the menu as a whole, you should be really be constantly looking at ways to adapt to the change in input costs; to market trends, pricing of your ingredients, diner preferences, even the delivery methods that we have in place as we’ve seen during COVID the last few months.”

He cautioned that not everything should be adapted for delivery simply because there is a lockdown or delivery apps are now making takeout more popular than ever. “Some things only really work on a plate.” He added that gauging sales based on daily and weekly demands might help measure the need for delivery in the first place. “By using sales forecasting and tracking your hourly sales over time, you can identify what times you may want to make additional use of things like third party delivery, without affecting in house demand, just as another way to try and keep those labour hours productive as possible.”

Support for local businesses gaining traction
Interest in Not-UberEats is gaining popularity, not just in Toronto, but around the world. Obinyan describes the interest as “overwhelming.” When Singh launched the project, he told his family and friends, then posted on social media. “We got really good feedback and I started sharing on LinkedIn and it was really getting a lot of traction,” observed Singh. “It’s been a really interesting experience and I’m glad that so many people are supportive of the project and really passionate about supporting local.”

The duo received emails and request for information from Britain and the U.S. “We’ve gotten so many responses, from cities like Vancouver, to someone in Amsterdam, and people in the U.S., so it’s like really cool.” Obinyan added, “we’re trying to see how we can enable more people to build one for their city and making sure we’re getting we’re also getting a ton of restaurant submissions, so that’s been occupying a lot of our time. We’d like to help enable other cities to get something similar.” Pizzerias, restaurants, cafés, bakeries and other small businesses can access the website and fill out the form to add their business’s website’s spreadsheet.

‘By the community, for the community’
Making any food business profitable requires a connection to a tight community and frequent communication. It also involves lots of goodwill, through charity work and community involvement. It doesn’t necessarily mean handouts, but both Obinyan and Singh feel that a no-cost resource that advertises and draws in clients is a good start.

Not-UberEats’ code is open sourced on GitHub, where developers can look around the source code, contribute features to the code and add a review. “we’re making this an initiative by the community for the community. So, we welcome as much help as people are willing to provide. We just want to make sure our local economies are viable when pandemic is over,” added Obinyan.


Naomi Szeben is the editor of Bakers Journal, our sister magazine, which highlights the successes, the trends and the people of Canada’s baking industry.