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FOOD SERVICES | Staff Reporter, UK
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easyFood positions itself to be the alternative in the online food delivery space

Find out why they believe their subscription model is a fairer option for restaurants.

The journey of how easyFood came to be wasn’t – well, easy – according to business partners Gurpreet Sidhu and Jeewan Sagu.

easyJet tycoon Stelios Haji-Ioannou came across the food delivery service more than a decade ago and got his legal team to protect the easy brand. Sidhu and Sagu had already purchased internet domain names easyfood.co.uk and easyfood.com prior to this – leading to a fateful encounter.

Following a meeting between the two parties to sort out the naming rights, the businessman instead bought a stake in the young company – convinced with the duo’s echoing ambition to disrupt Just Eat’s dominance in the online food delivery space.

The company recently began trading after a soft launch in Birmingham, with two hundred takeaways and restaurants in and around the city signed up on the platform.

QSR Media spoke to Sidhu and Sagu who further explained their explicit ambitions in challenging Just Eat.

QSR Media: What did you do before coming to this and why did you think this was a good idea?

We came up with online ordering back in 2004. We wanted to get food and couldn't find a menu and we couldn't believe it. We thought the future has got to be [a] menu in [our] pockets; [a] menu on smart phones. We came up with a great name – easyFood. We bought the domain, we started raising cash and got going. It was only then we realised that we were not the first to come up with this idea.

Just Eat had arrived…and raised a lot of money and set about dominating the marketplace. They did a great job actually because they've made this market space, and educated restaurants and consumers. Now, 40% of people are ordering through apps rather than phones so there's a war now going on between restaurant owners and Just Eat because restaurant owners are hurting with their commission…and they're trying to get people to phone in but the post-millennials are not going to switch back from app to phone so it's going to have to be online.

This is where the easy brand and our partnership with Stelios comes in; we're providing an online ordering platform which is a lot fairer.

QSR Media: Tell us more about how the tie-up with Stelios happened.

Our introduction wasn't friendly even though we've secured the domain easyfood.co.uk back in 2005, easyfood.com and a few others. We did oppose it at that time and nevertheless, we had all of that in our name and registered under our brand so we were a brand in our own right.

But over the years I think maybe when he was looking at expanding out his businesses because he operates a licensing model, he may have come across wanting to get easyfood; his lawyers may have come across it so we got a few letters of opposition. That's how our relationship started.

We suggested to his lawyers, “Look, can we just sit down with Stelios himself?” - in order to resolve it rather than dragging it through the courts. So when we first went in, we had prepared a pitch that we were going to treat like Dragons' Den - this was our opportunity to get our idea get across, our thoughts about the industry and I think what resonated with Stelios was that fact that we're passionate. The first thing he asked us was “What do you want?” And we didn't say "We want your money, we want to sell this." We said, "We want your help, we want you to be our partner.” 

The current state of the industry, how restaurants are hurting – they haven't got a voice and Just Eat is being the big bully in this marketplace and they're the only ones in it to be honest with independent restaurants and every year they're increasing their commissions and the money's going all the way from the chain rather than going into service and quality…it's all being sucked out by Just Eat and it's not fair.

Stelios saw this and said, ‘Well, it's not right and there needs to be some competition in the market so let's go up against the big boys.” We should have competition and give everyone a fairer deal. 

QSR Media: Is he now your main financial backer or is this a licensing agreement?

He's pumped in some cash but at the end of the day he's a businessman and he understands that cash will get you so far and you need to raise more cash so we need to prove back to him that we're businessmen as well, we can collect more outside money and investment and our model works so it can't just be a free cheque because he's given us his brand name, a PR team. He brought a lot to the table with just that plus the money but we need to now bring in the trust of others and funding investors, etc. to prove ourselves.

QSR Media: What's your focus now?

We've got two parallel focuses. The first is on signing up businesses and consumers to our platform so that every consumer that comes on our website should have every restaurant be on the platform. We want to get there (in Birmingham) within six months. Our second focus is on raising more capital.

QSR Media: What are the restaurants saying when they sign up with you? Why do they choose easyFood?

Firstly, we've got the brand; we're nationally recognized given the ‘easy’ platform. Secondly, we give restaurants their own websites as well...and we ask them to promote their own websites so customers can order directly from their websites.

To be honest, restaurant owners have been brainwashed into thinking that they don’t have choice. We can be that choice and we can help them get out of this sinkhole that we think they're in.

QSR Media: How do you make money with your current subscription model?

It's too cheap but I guess that's the way with any new tech. Bringing tech into the food and beverage industry – which is so far behind – is going to cost us so it's like with any business where you're trying to get numbers, you're going to have to spend. But in the future, I'm sure we'll figure out a way to make some money.

There's going to be lots of opportunities we will be able to get additional revenue streams in the B2B marketplace or just the traffic that comes to our site, other partnerships and affiliations. We'll make money. That's not a concern right now; our concern right now is getting ourselves out there to be honest.

QSR Media: Do you have a feel of how much restaurants will save on your platform compared to Just Eat?

A huge amount. We estimate an average restaurant would be paying Just Eat in excess of Ł20,000 a year in commission. On our platform, they'd be paying Ł1200 a year - right now Ł100 a month is too cheap but at the end of the day we're going charge a couple of hundred pounds in the future but it's still going be cheaper than Just Eat.

QSR Media: What's your hook for people to sign up?

The main angle we want to go down at is educating restaurant owners to empower themselves to reach out to their own customers and give them the facility to be able to do so. We want to run a small, local-based model so it's about empowering restaurants and educating them. It's about reaching out to them with some sort of voucher, discount – showing them that there is a choice and educating the consumer through the restaurant that it's a better choice.

QSR Media: Any other things in the pipeline?

We're in talks about doing a partnership with other easy brands like easyHotel. They've got 10 hotels around the UK. Anyone staying in the hotel could and download the easyfood app and call our trusted partners with discounts.

This is why Stelios brings a lot more to the table than just cash. He actively promotes bringing his [brand] family together. You're literally going see the easyFood sign everywhere in every street and that's going to be a game changer.

(Photo credit: easyFood UK Facebook page)

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