Even after the boom experienced by the online food delivery sector when stay-at-home orders went into effect last year, the industry is seeing a continued sustained surge as food aggregators take root in the UAE, which remains a developing market.
Growth picked up significantly in the second half of 2020, with revenues in the UAE's online food delivery segment projected to reach $1,106m in 2021, according to Statista.
But as with any new trend, the rise of food aggregators brought with it some challenges for restaurants. One of these is having to manually input orders from multiple platforms like Talabat, Zomato and Deliveroo into your restaurant’s POS system, which creates a lot of time delay and introduces the risk of human error. Other issues include managing different menus on different platforms, or having to contend with sales data that is fragmented across different apps.
When you have endless aggregators to contend with, who then is supposed to aggregate the aggregators for efficiency and peace of mind for restaurants?
Enter Deliverect, a startup that has stepped in to fill that very role. (Timeline infographic included below)
According to Deliverect, some of the biggest operational issues of food delivery and online ordering can be easily dealt with by optimizing delivery management and integrating online sales channels with a restaurant's POS (point-of-sale) system.
The Abu Dhabi SME Hub spoke with Zhong Xu, CEO and co-founder of Deliverect, and Naji Haddad, Deliverect’s Middle East General Manager, to learn more about this exciting new solution.
Naji Haddad, Middle East General Manager, Deliverect (left), and Zhong Xu, CEO and co-founder, Deliverect (right)
Can you tell us about your product, and what challenges it helped solve for F&B companies?
Naji: Deliverect integrated aggregators like Talabat, Zomato, Deliveroo and more delivery platforms directly to the restaurants’ POS systems. With online orders automatically pushed to the POS, there’s no need to manually re-enter order receipts anymore, saving time and eliminating errors.
Additionally, our menu builder enables restaurants to easily build their menu and push it live on multiple delivery platforms and for multiple locations. They can also make any changes or updates to the menu at any time and from one single dashboard for all delivery channels.
The centralisation of all this data also enables restaurants and other food businesses to get consolidated reporting of all their channels.
After your first successful venture POSios, why did you decide to set out to create Deliverect?
Zhong: I grew up around the restaurant industry as my father built (and still runs) a POS for Asian restaurants in Belgium. He inspired me to take over the business but I had other plans. In 2011, I built my own cloud-based POS with co-founder Jan Hollez. In 2014, we were acquired by Lightspeed and I became the Global Director of Hospitality. I gained a lot of experience speaking with restaurant owners and managers on a daily basis to better help them solve challenges related to operations and management.
Delivery was already rising during this time, before COVID-19. I witnessed first-hand the many pains restaurants were facing when offering delivery. Virtual kitchens were just at the very beginning of their development but I knew this was going to be big. Together with Jan, we thought of a solution to solve the pain point that comes with managing online delivery platforms and that’s how Deliverect was ‘born’ in 2018 – as a way to bridge the gap between delivery platforms and POS systems.
When you expanded to the UAE, what were your first takeaways regarding the F&B landscape here?
Naji: We’ve seen a boom in the delivery business. Restaurants saw online delivery and online ordering as a nice-to-have feature. Thanks to COVID-19, restaurant owners realised that being online is the way to survive during times that customers can’t dine in. [According to recent research], 60% of diners prefer online ordering as an alternative to eating out.
Food delivery has been a boon to many restaurants. We’ve seen restaurants changing their approach, being inventive in terms of engaging customers through online channels, organising special offers, and giveaways. The delivery sector has become crucial for the survival of the hospitality industry.
How did COVID-19 impact your business, and how did your clients' needs change?
Naji: At the height of the pandemic, restaurants were looking for ways in which they could thrive and now they are looking for solutions that will make them stand out from the competition. They are looking for solutions that will help integrate the different channels of online ordering and delivery to their POS system while automating most of their operations. Our technology proudly speaks for itself when it comes to addressing the needs of restaurant owners. We continuously listen to our clients’ needs and update our solutions to address those necessities.
Post-COVID-19, what are the industry's greatest pain points and opportunities, and how will Deliverect support restaurants with both?
Naji: This region has ample potential and hunger for online and offline food orders. Restaurants in the GCC are looking for solutions that will help integrate the different channels of delivery to their POS system while automating most of their operations.
Artificial Intelligence has become an integral part of the F&B industry because it simplifies and automates workflow. Not only does AI simplify many of the tasks that need to be done, but it also reduces cost, and helps grow business by providing future predictions and sharing recommendations accordingly. For example, owners of restaurants that operate outdoors need to be able to get the weather forecast for the upcoming week, have insight into their patterns, engineer the menu based on customer purchase analytics and re-price items based on the ordering rate. Therefore, artificial intelligence offers a competitive advantage to restaurants.
Given your recent $65 million Series C funding round, what are your immediate goals for the future in the UAE and beyond?
Naji: We are investing in this region and ensuring local presence by opening local offices and hiring a team of highly skilled individuals who will not just help us further develop our relationship with our customers but also listen to their feedback about what they need. We accordingly act upon the market demands to add value and better serve our clients.
We are constantly working on improving our product. Thanks to our close relationship with our customers, we get feedback about what they need, and can build a product that is serving our customers even better. Recently we’ve been working on a more user-friendly interface for our product to help restaurant owners navigate our system in the most efficient and user-friendly way.
Deliverect's Journey So Far...