Food firms’ recipe for success

Alan Haverty and Luke Mackey.

Innovative companies are driving Ireland’s near-€8bn foodservice sector, writes Ruth Doris

Ireland’s foodservice industry, which includes meals served in hotels and pubs, was worth €7.5bn last year, according to figures from Bord Bia. There is a growing demand for convenience, with about 40% of this figure including fast food, food-to-go, coffee shops and cafés.

Irish start-ups are shaking up the sector with innovative solutions for food service providers and time-poor consumers. For instance, busy young professionals can skip the lunch queue at their local coffee shop or salad bar using the Bamboo app. The platform, started by Luke Mackey and Alan Haverty, soft-launched in February this year, and has 70 partner food outlets signed up so far.

The team is currently targeting the lunchtime market in Dublin city centre; speciality cafés to burrito bars to bakeries in business areas, such as the IFSC and Harcourt Street.

The app’s core users are the 24-to-35 age bracket. They can order, pay, receive your loyalty rewards with a couple of taps, “so when you arrive, you can just skip the queue, grab your order and go,” Mr Mackey says.

The focus is on the customer experience, he says. When a café signs up, the Bamboo team works with them to figure out the best place for the pick-up point, one that works with workflow and that won’t disturb the casual queue of customers.

As the market for convenience continues to grow, consumers are looking for healthier alternatives.

The Bord Bia Irish Foodservice Channel Insights report, published in 2016, identified industry trends, including health and authenticity and greater culinary expression. These trends are reflected in the growth of businesses like DropChef, which delivers the ingredients and instructions for meals to customers’ homes, allowing them to cook a healthy meal in 30 minutes.

College friends Roman Grogan, Ryan Scott and Sam O’Byrne came up with the concept as a healthy eating solution for modern lifestyles. Their chefs come up with dishes, and the DropChef team works with them to create a simple step-by-step recipe. The subscription model ranges from €6.95 to €9.95 per meal.

DropChef is not a diet thing, Mr O’Byrne says. “It’s just whole, fresh ingredients with no additives.” Waste is reduced as ingredients are delivered pre-portioned in the right quantity.

What the team has discovered is that people do enjoy cooking, it’s the ancillary activities, such as choosing what to cook, shopping and trying to find all the ingredients, that they find frustrating.

Mr O’Byrne compares the convenience of DropChef to a Jamie Oliver cooking show. “It’s very easy for him to cook because he has everything prepared there and all he has to do is pop it in the pan. What we’re trying to do for people is provide them with convenience without compromise.”

While DropChef, which has teamed up with tech giant Google to provide an on-demand service for its staff, is popular among time-poor, health conscious young professionals, a big part of its business is families.

The company has partnered with Irish charity Valid Nutrition which tackles severe acute malnourishment in sub-Saharan Africa, to donate one therapeutic food pack for every meal DropChef sells.

The delivery market is another sector which is exploding along with advancements in mobile technology.

Flipdish provides online ordering apps and website technology for restaurants. The company, set up by brothers James and Conor McCarthy, offers an alternative option for restaurants to aggregator platforms like Just Eat and Deliveroo which charge commission from 13% to 30% of sales, according to James McCarthy.

Flipdish is a “white label” solution so businesses can have their own branded app, which Mr McCarthy says is a lot faster compared to others on the market. The simplicity of using the app is comparable to WhatsApp, Mr McCarthy says. Two years ago to place an order with Just Eat there were about 21 fields to fill in, including password, address, and email, he says. The Flipdish app requires just a phone number to carry out a transaction, as it can locate the customer with geolocation.

If the restaurant is not paying commission to an aggregator site, they can offer loyalty discounts to customers through the app. Flipdish began selling the product at the start of 2016 and has 400 restaurants signed up, which is over 10% of the delivery market in Ireland.


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