Just Eat has launched a Business Booster with restaurant investor Sarah Willingham — just two days after Deliveroo launched a restaurant innovation fund — according to reports in London Loves Business.
While Deliveroo’s £5m innovation fund sets the company up to act as an investor in existing restaurants and an incubator for new brands it believes will thrive, Just Eat’s partnership with Sarah Willingham appears to be based on a model of entrepreneurial mentorship, as opposed to direct investment. It is an extension of the platform’s Restaurant Services program, which has saved partnering restaurants a collective £2.5m over the last 12 months according to company figures.
The news also follows extremely positive recent results for the takeaway juggernaut, which served its 400 millionth order in the UK and posted a 49% rise in revenue year-on-year for Q1. While this was inflated by the £200m acquisition of Hungry House, the growth has renewed belief in the company’s ability to tap into the potential of restaurants and takeaways, a market with an estimated growth value of around £1.1bn to 2023.
While London restaurant rents continue to concern operators, the need for entrepreneurial support is clearly real: Willingham’s role will cover one-to-one business mentorship as well as a portfolio of regional events and online communications designed to offer both generally applicable and bespoke support for restaurants seeking to grow. While the idea sounds promising, the areas of interest — increasing new customers, increasing marketing, and increasing margins — sound rather like restaurant 101; compared with Deliveroo’s financial powerplay, it’s not a move that will see JustEat take direct stakes in (and therefore some/total control of) businesses with high potential value. The scheme will also be application-based: of the 28,900 restaurants on the platform, only five will be selected for the individual mentorship, with the events and online comms open to all.
Willingham — formerly of Pizza Express and Bombay Bicycle Club and an investor with Raymond Blanc — is certain that supplementary commercial savviness of any kind is indispensable:
It’s amazing to see such energy and drive from independent restaurant owners to grow their business despite the challenging conditions that we continue to see in the casual dining sector. When you run a small business so much time is spent on the day to day management that it is hard to focus on growing the business. But there still exists many opportunities for independent food outlets; from making the most of the rise of marketplaces like Just Eat to the simple tricks that will help them to find efficiencies or be a bit more commercially-savvy.
As someone who knows what it takes to build, grow and run successful restaurants, I know that a small change can go a long way. I’m really looking forward to playing a part in supporting local restaurant owners, and working closely with many, to achieve their growth ambitions.
Meanwhile, UK MD of Just Eat Graham Corfield added:
As the market leader in online food delivery, we are committed to helping independent restaurants thrive. Whether it’s using our technology to help them reach a broader customer base, our data to help restaurant owners make more informed business decisions, or our scale in negotiating nationwide deals to help reduce costs.
The restaurants that we partner with are important pillars of high streets up and down the UK. If we can help them at a local level, to improve profitability and efficiencies, the combined impact on the economy could be huge. Restaurant partners are the beating heart of our business, which is why we are so pleased to be launching our Business Booster initiative to support them in running even more successful businesses. Sarah’s experience of growing her own restaurant brands means she is the perfect partner to help us achieve this aim.
As the takeaway giants lock horns with divergent strategies, it remains to be seen who will come out on top.