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GUEST COMMENT Takeaways go online

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GUEST COMMENT Takeaways go online
GUEST COMMENT Takeaways go online
by Shane Lake

What have you bought online this week? Possibly a book or a t-shirt. Maybe your groceries and even a flight to get away from it all this summer. But did you still pick up the phone to order your Friday-night takeaway? Chances are you didn’t. On reflection, it’s been a little while since you did, not because you've gone off them, but because you realised you no longer need to because there’s an easier way.

Takeaways have gone online.

Of course, ecommerce has been booming around the world for a fair while, and nowhere more so than in the UK. Some sectors have been embracing it for a long time, with clothes retailers well ahead of the curve and airlines flying high. The takeaway food industry has perhaps not been quite as quick off the mark, but it is certainly making up for a slower start. The stakes are high, with the FT valuing the UK takeaway industry at about $8billion in 2012.

Back in 2007, when we pitched our idea for a takeaway aggregation site to the formidable Dragons in their Den, we stated that Domino’s received about 1 in 7 of their pizza orders over electronic channels. Fast forward to their most recent figures and Domino’s now claim 63 per cent of their orders come from their website or app, with some franchises taking up to 75 percent of orders online.

With a year-on-year revenue growth of 140 per cent, we’ve also suddenly seen a spike in our consumers embracing our technology and ordering takeaway online. Mobile is also definitely seeing a surge, with our app showing 115 per cent growth in the last six months. This is a very dynamic time for the marketplace and we’re excited to be a part of it.

But what is it about online ordering that has suddenly piqued the interest of takeaway consumers?

As with every other sector of retail, online food ordering offers convenience, ease and most importantly, choice. The occasional takeaway is a treat that appeals to all age groups and is not particularly favoured in one region or another. The scope for online ordering is not restricted to a particular demographic or locality, meaning growth potential is huge.

There are thousands of restaurants operating online in the UK, on our site alone customers can access information and menus for almost 11,000. Hungry customers value being able to turn to their laptop or phone, type in their postcode and find 15 plus local restaurant menus, each with a customer review rating and quick click function to order. Not an awkward phone call to an already over-stretched pizza chef or a misheard card number in sight. An app makes the process even more convenient. Turning to an ‘always-on’ mobile device and making a couple of swipes of the screen before a steaming curry arrives at the door is an appealing prospect for an increasingly tech-savvy generation.

Being part of this online surge is helping small, independent takeaway retailers bridge the gap between themselves and major-players such as Domino’s. Aggregator sites create a level playing field that was not available to the ‘little fish’ before the trend for internet ordering took off. The majority of these long-established, family run restaurants do not have the time, money or expertise to make, and more importantly, market, a website or mobile app. With an average of about 500 restaurants a month joining aggregator sites, the industry fully recognises the potential benefits of jumping on the ‘e-ordering’ bandwagon. Many restaurants may appear on more than one aggregation website, ensuring they achieve maximum online exposure

Being part of a wider aggregation website which is at the forefront of a market shift can also offer restaurants boundless rewards when it comes to harnessing consumer sentiment. In a similar vein to the Yelp or TripAdvisor model, aggregator sites open up the opportunity for dialogue between customers, with word-of-mouth recommendations becoming public property in the form of customer reviews. In a particularly ruthless industry this may not be a welcome prospect to a few restaurant owners. However, the takeaway industry has always functioned on a fiercely competitive ‘survival of the fittest’ model and going online only serves to enhance this for those who provide the best service.

As the online takeaway industry continues to flourish there are fantastic opportunities for both consumers and restaurants to continue to take advantage of the growth. And at the very least this internet retailing revolution will eradicate the need to keep an old stack of curling menus in the kitchen drawer.

Shane Lake is co-founder of hungryhouse.co.uk 
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