Have your cake and eat it with Food to Home
Food ordering apps combine speed and convenience to fill an increasing number of stomachs worldwide. Now they can also earn users money at the same time.
The current buzz surrounding food ordering apps is reflected in the number of delivery bicycles that can be seen weaving their way through city streets. Yet for all the thumb-flicking convenience of summoning your meal in a colour-coded bulky backpack, there are numerous potholes in the industry’s path which are slowing its momentum.
Perhaps the biggest of all is the process of scaling up and increasing the number of restaurants and users on board.
A couple of years ago, Food to Home COO Tommi Hippeläinen came up with a viable solution to this problem: motivate users to actively seek potential restaurants themselves. Once enterprises sign up, the person who convinced them to do so could receive a percentage cut of each transaction in future.
“The basic idea is we have created a food ordering app,” Hippeläinen explains. “But, we want to give added value to the user by providing the possibility for them to start earning money by activating restaurants. In a sense we are outsourcing, crowdsourcing our sales force.”
The first port of call for Hippeläinen and his soon-to-be co-founders was getting industry feedback on the idea. Their three-pronged approach was enthusiastically received. Alongside developing an ‘activator app’ for users, they would also create a separate one for establishments to manage their orders – not forgetting, of course, a food ordering app itself.
Brimming with enthusiasm, they took a deep breath and – kept their mouths firmly shut.
“We actually haven’t made too much noise about it; we didn’t release our business model until we had the activator app ready,” Hippeläinen declares. “We cannot copyright the idea, or protect it. If we announced this two years ago anyone could have copied it.”
Although the public has been kept in the dark, investors are certainly aware: to the tune of 1.5 million euros of funding already injected into the company.
“We haven’t been able to advertise our funding rounds, so we kept it under the radar,” Hippeläinen says, with the smile of someone who has been sitting on some huge news for a considerable while. “Investors loved the idea that users can benefit, as it can have a similar effect as Pokémon did. People can say, ‘Oh, there are a couple of restaurants nearby I can activate.’”
Alongside solving the problem of developing its user base, the company also seeks to overcome several other challenges currently confronting food ordering app growth. Firstly, Food to Home takes less commission than its competitors, and has significantly reduced the time it takes for restaurants to receive the money for each transaction.
“With many services, if someone orders today, currently it might take a few weeks before restaurants get the money,” Hippeläinen says. “This might lead to a big problem whether they can actually buy ingredients for tomorrow or not. We have got it down to two–three days depending on the time of order.”
Furthermore, the app works as a marketing platform for restaurants as well.
“For example, a restaurant would be able to sell some burgers for the next two hours at a 50 per cent discount,” Hippeläinen says. “They would use the app to input this, then all users with the ordering app, say in a five-kilometre radius, receive a notification.”
Chinese on the order
Rather than commission swarms of bike couriers to ferry meals to hungry users, at this stage Food to Home remains strictly a food ordering app. Given its global ambitions, this is in keeping with the needs of users.
“Each market is different,” Hippeläinen says. “In Spain, the trend is that people prefer to go to restaurant and personally take away their meals. Currently, we don’t provide delivery ourselves. We do have something on the road map, but can’t say anything right now.”
In order to communicate with users, the company is rolling out in all EU languages, and also Chinese. A recent visit to Hong Kong to meet with potential collaborators indicates that the idea will soon travel to many countries in Asia as well.
“We don’t want to stop there,” Hippeläinen says. “We also don’t want to restrict methods of payment. In the future, Chinese users can use Alipay and WeChat Pay and other established methods. We are working with the same company that Uber, Spotify and Netflix are using to manage payments. Through that we can expand to 250 payment methods.”
As Hippeläinen talks, one gets the impression that the business plan is unfolding like clockwork. This is merely the beginning for Food to Home.
“We have some pretty interesting stuff ahead for next 12 months. We’ll add new features that none of our competitors have.”
Text: James O’Sullivan