Run Partners

Uber Future Proofing Your Food Business

— Celeste Moroney

I am walking down George street and overhear the phone conversation of a 25 – 30-year-old female telling her friend that she doesn’t like going home. That there is nothing to do there. And that she would rather stay out for as long as possible to avoid going home.

Jump to the following day, I am having lunch in the galleries. French Crepes on the menu. Great business. Low cost. Very Simple operations. Minimal staff training. Consistent quality. Also Menu plan orders on the increase, according to the owner.

Whilst enjoying my crepe I read that HelloFresh, have only now, after 6 years of being in business, turned a profit (Reporting a $5.4 million profit off $126.5 million sales revenue in calendar 2017, Australian Financial Review). (Also worth mentioning that their future distribution channel may include vending machines).

The food industry is tough. Both for the innovators and the well established. Marks and Spencers have just announced they are closing 100 stores in the UK.

All these random bits of information start playing Jenga, working their way towards reaching a visual of what the future of restaurant dining may entail!

This is where I got to (feel free to add your own blocks to keep it going):

A physical space only – that looks and feels everything like a modern restaurant but without a kitchen. You can book a table, and once you have arrived you order online via the Uber Eats, or ‘Uber Dine-In Eats’. You can also pre-order, to avoid waiting times. It’s a place for solo, a couple of single diners. Everyone may end up eating food from different restaurants – which makes it good for people with food intolerances / selected food choices.

What’s interesting about this is space is being utilised for people, not for cooking or storage of ingredients. Does the cooking and preparation space really need to be on a high cost per square metre, if it can be carried elsewhere?

The notion of ordering from a selection of restaurants in itself creates the opportunity for shared ‘kitchen services’. If you have a restaurant and increasingly over time your Uber Eats sales are taking over your dine-in sales, how long will it take for you to seriously consider re-thinking the physical space of a restaurant? Do you downsize or remove completely?

Online Only Restaurants. If you were opening up a restaurant today, of course, you would think about it. Save all your money on the fit-out and invest it in marketing to get your name out there. This idea opens the door to a new market of ‘home cooking’ (food standards approved of course). All those lovers of home cooking, can share their passion with a wider audience and get paid for it. I personally would entertain the purchase of ‘home cooked meals’ and I would be happy to pay more for them. The value perception encompasses passion, love and care versus ingredient selections and process driven by economies of scale. Very similar to Uber drivers.

A few ideas in this one.

The ‘uber dine-in eats’ concept… would come down to the total experience being created and then how the space would be subsidised. The concept could also be an add-on service to an existing business like Starbucks, for example. Or maybe a millennial common room vibe, where you pay a monthly subscription to a gym or shared office space.

Even the best of the best restaurants are faced with high operating costs, training and keeping good staff, attracting customers, innovating, high fit-out costs,… can the restaurant skip the downsize option and go straight to an online-only offering?

If you were opening a restaurant today what would you do?

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