Business Profiles

App Technology; Keeping Things in Order

The future is of course digital – consumers are ordering the majority of their takeaway meals via apps, fast-evolving POS software and hardware, coupled with clever innovations in the payments space, is increasingly doing away with cash and physical receipts, and wholesale transport logistics is being transformed by automated systems.

One area that has largely been left untouched, and has traditionally been as slow as can be to change, is chefs and proprietors ordering stock.  It’s only relatively recently that many suppliers have finally been able to do away with fax machines.  The vast majority of orders are currently fulfilled with written forms and phone calls.  This is slow, counterintuitive and prone to errors.

An obvious solution is to develop an app, which is exactly what Dublin-based suppliers Vernon Catering has gone and done.

“The app improves communication.  Often mistakes happen just through miscommunication.  People would ring and ask for a box of tomatoes, when obviously we have four or five varieties of tomatoes, such as plum, beef, cherry and so on.  And that causes problems,” explains Ronan Sullivan of Vernon.

“We were ringing customers and saying, we know you left a message asking for tomatoes, but can you just specify what type.  But chefs forget, they’ve got busy lives, they don’t necessarily remember certain specifics, they might just say tomato and hope that we know what they mean,” he continues.

[pull_quote_center]A primary focus for us was just to make it easier for the customer.  Pretty much everyone has a smartphone now, so if the ordering facility is on your phone it’s easier than having to ring in.[/pull_quote_center]

Like with online shopping, the app self-populates – so once logged in, the app displays all your favourite items and regular orders.  The app makes reordering much faster – rather than having to fill out a form and then ring it in, you can just go into the app, run through it and place the order.

Astonishingly, the company has found that ordering via the app is “at least 50% quicker than the standard ordering system”.

Ronan Sullivan, Vernon Catering.

Signup is expectedly simple and is carefully looked after by the Vernon team.  Unlike others who may launch an app and sit back expecting users to suddenly appear, Vernon Catering is proactively working with customers to facilitate the digital transition.  “We’ll come out, we’ll download the app onto your phone, we’ll have it self-populate with your favourites – we’ll go through your order history here and from that we’re able to pull out all the products you’ve ordered in the last month and that will be populated into the app and then it’s ready to go,” explains Ronan.

The system allows for multiple users – for example, the proprietor or head chef can be the administrator and below that can be multiple user accounts that the administrator can give various levels of rights to, from making a full order to giving suggestions on what needs to be purchased.

Despite only soft launching in the last six months, almost 25% of Vernon’s customers are now regularly using the app.  “It’s not something we’ve really been talking about, we’ve been mentioning it to customers as we go along and working with them on it.  If people are keen to go on it we take the next step with them,” says Ronan.

The app has allowed the team at Vernon to look at their service from a different perspective.  “We updated a lot of descriptions and improved list locations of products, for example we noticed people ordering celeriac would order celery by mistake so we put a separation between those two products.  Small things like that, we learned as we were testing.”

[pull_quote_center]People now are able to see our full product range, so we’re getting constant feedback saying they didn’t know we stocked all this produce.  So for us that’s been quite beneficial.[/pull_quote_center]

With the service still on soft launch, Ronan is keen to continue developing the service and build in additional functionality.  “We’re hoping to better communicate special offers and seasonal products.  So for example if wild garlic leaf is in season we might want to display that prominently on the app, and to alert people who ordered it last year that it’s in stock again.”

[quote_box_center]To learn more about the app, and to set up a meeting with Vernon Catering, contact the team on 01 707 2364 or visit www.vernoncatering.ie.[/quote_box_center]

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The Official Publication of the Restaurants Association of Ireland

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