Just Eat partners ex-Dragons Den star to unlock £1.1bn restaurant growth

Just Eat, the global online marketplace for takeaway food delivery, is today launching a dedicated Business Booster programme to drive sustained growth among the UK’s independent restaurants, giving a much-needed support boost to local businesses on UK high streets.

The initiative will see the company team up with entrepreneur and ex-Dragon’s Den star Sarah Willingham to provide one-on-one business mentoring for restaurant owners who are facing a business challenge.

New research carried out among independent restaurant owners reveals three in five (59%) hold a belief they will grow their business in the next five years, despite the current climate. If independent restaurants achieve this, and increase annual turnover by 5%, the UK economy stands to gain £1.1bn and the sector would create 55,000 new jobs by 2023.

Despite their optimism regarding potential growth, the day-to-day running of a business is causing concern among restaurant owners. Two thirds of independent restaurant owners (65%) express concern they will be unable to maintain current profitability levels, and 63% say they would value advice on how they can grow their business.

The Business Booster initiative has been designed to support restaurants and address the challenges they face as they seek to grow their business.

Willingham, who has previously held senior management roles at Pizza Express and is credited for taking Bombay Bicycle Club from five restaurants to the UK’s largest chain of Indian restaurants, will also advise businesses through a series of regional events and through blogs and advice shared through the platform’s communication channels.

The business advice has been specifically designed to address areas that restaurant owners are neglecting, and to support in areas where they see opportunity. For instance, in the past two years:
• 30% of restaurant owners have not checked their income and costs to see how their margins are changing
• Almost a quarter (24%) of restaurant owners have not reviewed their pricing

Furthermore, the most important areas of opportunity identified by restaurant owners are:
• Increasing the number of new customers (85%)
• Promoting business to more potential customers (80%)
• Increasing their margins (67%)

Sarah Willingham said, “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.”

Graham Corfield, UK Managing Director at Just Eat, said, “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 decision, or our scale in negotiating nationwide deals to help reduce costs.

“The restaurants that we partner with in the UK are important pillars of high streets up and down the UK. If we can help them 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.”

Mike Springer, owner of Big Mike’s Calypso Kitchen in Croydon, said, “As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to dream big but it’s not so simple to make those ambitions a reality. I started off as a one-man band in my garage. By focusing on my online presence, I built up a good customer base and as our popularity grew, I was able to secure a permanent location at a local pub. Business is booming, to the extent that we plan to open five more sites in the next year.

“But the journey I’ve been on over the past three years hasn’t always been plain sailing. There is so much more to running a successful food business than just cooking great dishes and it’s easy to lose sight of that when you’re running a busy kitchen.

'For me, admin was always a big concern, but with support from Just Eat I’ve now built a much better understanding of managing my finances, staff and how to implement effective marketing. This has given me the confidence I need to expand Big Mike’s Calypso Kitchen to more locations.”

The initiative builds on a number of Just Eat programmes to help restaurants make more of their business. Restaurants on the Just Eat platform have access to discount deals from a range of suppliers to reduce the cost of wholesale food, card payments, and utilities. In addition, restaurants can access data on consumer trends and their individual performance to inform commercial decisions.

The Business Booster initiative is open to any of the 28,900 restaurants on Just Eat. Restaurant owners can apply online by visiting ww.just-eat.co.uk/campaigns/businessboosters, and five successful applicants will be selected. Applications open on 24 May and will close on 1 July 2018.