East Croydon Cool talks…is a blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts. With this month welcoming the (semi) return of indoor dining, we’re keen to learn more about the impact on the food industry, especially on the food delivery apps we’ve all become so reliant on this past year!
With bars and restaurants shut down during intermittent lockdowns, the past 18 months have seen a huge increase in the number of people ordering takeaways with food delivery giants like Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats doing pretty well out it.
For many restaurants, delivery apps have been a saviour, allowing them to keep serving customers even though their doors were closed. But they have also caused growing discontentment. Today, restaurants and delivery companies remain uneasy partners, haggling over fees and struggling to make the service profitable for themselves and each other.
As the Independent reports, “Companies like UberEats may have helped many restaurants stay in business during lockdowns but that convenience came at a price: delivery companies can charge commission fees of 30% or more per order, hurting restaurants’ already meagre profits. Some restaurants, fed up with the fees, have since started their own delivery or dropped off the platforms altogether. Delivery companies are trying to keep them in the fold with lower-priced services and relief funds. But they’re not making money either”.
So where does that leave Croydon’s take-away industry? Who better to ask than Andy Szebeni, a local entrepreneur and co-founder of Croydon’s very own Food Delivery app, Croydon Eats! Launched in March 2021, Croydon Eats is an app and website for local people who want to order local food.
Hi Andy, first off, how did the idea for Croydon Eats come about?
Paul and I learnt last year quite how much the ‘big three’ charged their outlets and how dissatisfied many were with the service. We started looking around to see if we could bring better value to the market and found partners who allowed us to come in at half the cost and save both outlets and diners money.
Do you have much experience in the app or food industries?
Paul has a large number of food service clients with his cost reduction consultancy and I have 30 years experience eating takeaways 😉 So we feel we are perfectly qualified to enter the market. I have also been working in sales, communications and marketing for much of my working life and we saw a real opportunity to give the incumbents a run for their money.
What are the main benefits for Croydon food providers in using the app?
The main appeal is the much lower fees we charge because we have much lower overheads. We don’t have to pay shareholders, fatcat salaries and £million TV adverts. We are local lads who know how to look after businesses and we help our clients with their messaging and undertake sales and marketing online and offline to help win them and us new clients. If there is an issue, we are real people who can physically come and see them to sort out any problems. Plus, we’re a local business, just like our clients.
What are the main benefits for Croydon residents in using the app?
To start with, we don’t charge silly “small transaction” fees. Plus, because our outlets are saving money, they can pass that on to diners in their prices. We also run promotions and competitions to save diners money. Our customer service is way higher than the ‘big 3’ – and we sort out any problems quickly and fairly for both the diner and outlet. Plus customers can know they are help a local business (Croydon Eats) and local eateries.
What has the response to the app been like since launching?
We have been blown away by the enthusiasm of local businesses who realise that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying us out. When businesses like Fireaway Pizza in Selsdon, Royal Garden Cantonese and Kaspas and in West Croydon give us their votes of confidence we know we are doing the right thing.
Do you think there will be a decline in people ordering take aways once indoor dining returns?
It has been fantastic to see so many dormant restaurants come back to life. Takeaway has been a lifeline to many over the recent months and it is interesting to see many keep that part of their business going because we can help them increase their sales. Others have gone back to what they know, while many diners have been rushing to take advantage of the ability to support their local restaurants that have been closed. All the research shows that the public has learnt to order out more and much of that increase in sales is likely to stay with us.
We’ve recently heard the term “dark kitchen”. What is this and what is the impact on restaurants and food delivery businesses?
Dark kitchens, grey kitchens and ghost kitchens are an innovation by the big food brands where they have industrial food production facilities in industrial parks that produce the food order from the apps. They then deliver (often over a large distance) direct to the consumer rather than from a restaurant or a retail takeaway outlet. We are in discussions with two and can see a few of these taking the pressure off the actual restaurant operations. There is an increasing trend of specialist chefs using excess kitchen space, particularly in pubs, to produce adventurous menus solely for delivery. This can only be a good thing for diners who crave something a little different from the regular burger, pizza or chow mein.
Do you see the trend for localisation increasing?
The lockdowns have forced people to bring their horizons closer to home and discover what they have on their doorstep. At the same time, many understand that we will lose local businesses if we don’t support them. We are touched by the amount of love we get from the public and diners who support us in our mission to bring down prices for clients and takeaways as well as keeping the money local.
How do you see the future of Croydon’s takeaways and restaurants?
Many are teetering on the brink of profitability and we will have to see how many are unable to survive through the coming difficult months. We have already seen two clients shut up shop and, sadly, expect a handful more. However, we see consumer habits having swung towards home dining and we are supporting new niche enterprises like Wild Honey Foods and Day n Nite Cuisines to fill in the gaps.
More about Croydon Eats
Croydon Eats is a new app and website for local people ordering local food. They have all the local favourites from fish and chips, curry and Chinese to pizza and kebabs. Plus, they have a range of cafes and restaurants delivering a selection of their usual eat-in orders for delivery and pick up. They launched in Lockdown and plan to be here well into the future. If you are a local takeaway or restaurant who wants to save money on their ordering app and make sure you are promoted above the big app companies then Croydon Eats is for you. They promote local businesses directly to local diners. They run offers, online campaigns and offline campaigns to attract new regular customers. If you don’t already have a delivery infrastructure, you can use theirs. Even that will be a major saving on the big companies for you and for the diners. Croydon Eats is run by local businessmen Andy Szebeni and Paul Sweeney so you won’t have to deal with faceless corporations anymore. You will have local people who really do care about your business and won’t be charging hefty fees to pay fatcat salaries and international shareholders.
Do you run a local cafe, bar, pub or restaurant and are keen to be listed on Croydon Eats? Click here to register your interest.
Are you a local resident, keen to support a local business and order from local food outlets? Click here to download the Croydon Eats app.