“They’ve definitely taken us out to a much broader market”: Costa Anastasiadis. Photo: Ben RushtonThere’s a point in the week when even dedicated cooks get fed up with making meals at home.
Weekends are when we “play MasterChef” or go out, said Martin Kneebone, managing director of food market research and analysis firm FreshLogic.
At the start of the working week, we tend to be organised and cook at home.
“By Thursday, you’ve had enough,” Mr Kneebone said. “You want a break.”
That’s where food ordering apps come in.
In the competition for a slice of the dining dollar, online ordering platforms such as Menulog, Deliveroo, UberEATS and Foodora are putting increasing pressure on the big supermarkets.
It’s what Mr Kneebone calls “the battle for Thursday night”, with “share of stomach” the prize.
“Every meal that’s ordered … means there’s another one that doesn’t have to be purchased in ingredient form and prepared at home,” Mr Kneebone said. “[Ordering apps are] combining convenience with a quick meal and that’s hitting the right spots in terms of lifestyle priorities at the moment.”
In a country where one-quarter of homes are single-person households, and 40 per cent of people say they always or often feel pressed for time, convenient meals are big business. As one report put it, takeaway food sales in “are going bonkers”.
Figures from National Bank show that in the year to June 2016, takeaway food sales rose 56.1 per cent to account for 5.8 per cent of ‘s total online spending of $20.1 billion.
n market leader Menulog was such an appetising prospect that British rival Just Eat bought it for $855 million, leaving Menulog co-founder Leon Kamenev a spare $80 million to drop on property in Vaucluse.
Menulog in and New Zealand facilitated $260 million worth of orders for restaurant partners in the first half of 2016; its latest half-year results reported revenue growth of 77 per cent year on year.
Mr Kneebone said all the ordering platforms had to do was match time-poor consumers with good quality restaurants. “The normal constraints around growth, typically related to bricks and mortar, are not there. It’s only constrained by people adopting an app, and that can happen overnight.”
The rise of online ordering is not just changing how we dine, but how restaurants operate.
They are adjusting their opening hours, creating delivery-only menus and opening pop-up stores, while shifting their marketing online and to social media. Retail leasing agents report a surge of interest in premises on the city fringe and in the suburbs, and those offering parking for delivery bikes and cars.
Hospitality consultant Tony Eldred said opportunities were emerging for fledgling restaurateurs to open delivery kitchens without the high cost of restaurant fitouts.
“There’s a lot of young people in the industry who’d like to own their own restaurants or business but now the barrier to entry’s about a million dollars or more,” he said. “Why pay retail rents in the CBD at $3000 a square metre when you could remove the kitchen to a low-cost area … and deliver to a 10 [kilometre] radius around you?”
On the downside, Mr Eldred said, delivery commissions of up to 30 per cent were eating into restaurants’ profits.
Costa Anastasiadis, general manager of Zeus Street Greek, said the commission was a necessary concession for businesses wanting to reach new customers without the effort and expense of running their own deliveries.
“With the whole outsourcing experience, you literally plug and play,” he said.
Zeus, which will soon have more than a dozen stores in three states, has partnered with UberEATS and Deliveroo.
“They’ve definitely taken us out to a much broader market,” Mr Anastasiadis said. “We assumed we actually had a decent saturation point in many of these markets we’ve already got stores in, and it was surprising seeing a lot of new customers coming through.”
UberEATS has rapidly expanded to other mainland capitals since launching in Melbourne last April.
“People are really seeing UberEATS as a replacement for cooking at home,” said UberEATS Asia-Pacific general manager Simon Rossi.
“Rather than going to the grocery store to buy food, they can push a button and have their meal delivered in around 30 minutes from some of their favourite restaurants. We’re really starting to see people embrace this and use it as part of their everyday life.”
Menulog, which recently paired with delivery partner Drive Yello, boasts more than 8000 restaurants and 2.6 million active customers.
“With an increasingly fast-paced lifestyle and reliance on digital technology, we’re seeing greater demand for simple and easy services that can provide consumers [with] what they need in an instant,” managing director Alistair Venn said.
There is also a greater demand for choice. Mr Venn said “our fastest growing category is vegetarian food, which has increased by 1000 per cent year on year, followed by salads and health foods”.
Next year, Menulog will focus on personalising its experience based on customer preferences. But further changes could be just around the corner; parent company Just Eat is trialling robot deliveries in London.