SkipTheDishes redesigns online restaurant delivery
May 30, 2017 — Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Who couldn’t use a little more time in their day? That’s just what the founders of Prairie-based SkipTheDishes thought when they started their IT-driven restaurant delivery hub in late 2012.
With the help of the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), Skip’s five young entrepreneurs — Joshua, Chris and Daniel Simair, Jeff Adamson and Andrew Chau — have developed a high-tech, online interface to coordinate the activities of restaurants and food couriers that offer customers a whole new level of reliability and transparency in ordering take-out food. Their unique approach has enabled Skip to go from bootstrapped startup to international success in under four years.
“After meeting at the University of Saskatchewan, we all went to work in large cities – to London, San Francisco and New York. There we saw people using their time very efficiently by using on-demand laundry, on-demand groceries and other on-demand services. And we thought, why don’t our cities back home have that?” explained Andrew Chau, the company’s Vice President of Strategy.
When the five returned to Saskatoon, they pooled their resources to start SkipTheDishes.
“We saw the opportunity to help people spend more time on what they wanted to do most — to work on a school project or to mingle with friends while hosting a party rather than preparing food. It’s another way to gain more time in your day,” said Chau.
“IRAP’s financial support and advice has helped us to fully drive our innovation and pursue our goal of becoming a major tech player in North America."
Using technology to gain a competitive edge
It quickly became clear that Skip’s business success would rely heavily on doing a lot of rapid research and development (R&D) work.
“We realized that we needed to break down the food delivery process into discrete steps and build a robust IT system that could support it. We had to be able to coordinate the activities of restaurants and drivers carrying thousands of orders in each city, while using the most efficient routes across changing traffic conditions to deliver hot food on time,” said Chau. “We had to build three different interfaces — one for customers, one for restaurants and one for couriers — and incorporate GPS real-time tracking to offer a high level of transparency to give our customers a great experience.”
In early 2013, Skip approached IRAP for help with an initial software development project to enhance their delivery management and dispatch system. “Our first project with IRAP was modest,” said Chau. “But in a bootstrapped operation, it went a long way. It enabled us to hire additional software engineers and increase our R&D capacity.”
“We started working with Skip on building sophisticated resources to develop and keep their technical competitive edge,” explained Cliff Klein, the IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) for Skip. It was the beginning of a relationship that grew as the company expanded. One project built upon the next — from creating a fully-integrated interface for partnering restaurants, to adding integrated performance management tools, predictive courier scheduling and machine learning to better automate restaurant, courier and customer communications. Skip also used IRAP support to gamify its courier system to motivate drivers to deliver orders swiftly and improve courier retention through healthy competition and a reward system.
“One of our earliest projects with IRAP was funded through a program aimed at hiring new graduates,” added Chau. “Our engineering and design team now includes a few dozen people, all with different skill sets. It’s a great experience to work in a rapidly growing start-up like Skip. Many Skip employees have now gained essential skills and insights to help them launch their own companies in the future.”
SkipTheDishes goes international
Skip continues to leap from success to success. In four short years they have gone from their start-up operation in Saskatoon, with a choice of 25 restaurants, to more than 20 markets in Canada and the United States with over 3,000 restaurants on the menu. With engineering facilities in both Saskatoon and Winnipeg, they are a growing tech firm with a staff of over 250 and plans for more.
“IRAP has been a major source of support for our company, and has given us a lot of validity,” Chau concluded. “At the beginning it’s hard to get much recognition other than from customers. It’s really helped us in attracting investors.”
“IRAP’s financial support and advice has helped us to fully drive our innovation and pursue our goal of becoming a major tech player in North America.”
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