New free takeaway software could help North East restaurants survive Covid

A restaurateur from Northumberland has developed new software that could make the difference between restaurants surviving the Coronavirus pandemic or going bust.Founder, Sunil Mehra, claimed Bookslots can enable North East restaurants, that are entering into the takeaway sector for the first time, to operate the service more efficiently and at zero cost.He told ITV News Tyne Tees "it’s about keeping as much money in the local economy as possible and not charging anything for this, so that every penny they generate they get to keep and they get to spend it on the wages of their staff and they get to spend it with their supply chain to support them, so that they are better placed to thrive beyond the survival stage of the pandemic."The three major third party delivery companies Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats told ITV News they have all supported restaurants during the pandemic and will continue to do so in the recovery.

During lockdown many restaurants have either closed their doors completely or had to pay commission to national third party delivery companies.This would mean that if a restaurant sold a meal for £30 to a customer, they may then pay up to 35 per cent commission for the order and delivery and would only receive £19.50 for the meal they cooked.With the new system, Mr Mehra said there is only a nominal processing fee of £1 that the customer pays, meaning restaurants can keep 100 per cent of their profit and more money is kept in the local economy.

The only reason it exists is to support the industry. It’s intention is not to fleece it. It’s actually to support it, to help it survive and thrive beyond that and we’re not going to charge for this when people need it the most and that doesn’t mean that if they don’t need it later on that we’re going to impose charges on it. It’s there available to them to use for as long as they want it.

Sunil Mehra, Founder of Bookslots

It is claimed the software also offers restaurants programmes which provide other benefits, including:

  • improving profitability and sustainability of the business

  • improving cash flow as money is paid directly to the business

  • helping businesses match demand to kitchen capacity, meaning no delayed orders or queues for collection

  • managing stock control, automatically removing sold out items from the menu

  • improving operational efficiency and cuts down food waste

The booking system has already processed £1,020,472 in meal orders for 16 restaurants who signed up during the lockdowns.One of those was Dobson and Parnell near Newcastle's Quayside, which is run by the Hooked-on Group. The bosses saw profits double when the restaurant started using the system, but they had initially been sceptical about it, wondering if there was a catch. Now they believe it has helped them survive the pandemic.

It’s made it so easy to be able to generate some revenue whilst we’ve been closed. Without that revenue, we’d be in a much less of a strong position when we reopened. It’s enabled us to have jobs, essentially for when we reopen, because I guess without the cash coming into the business when we’ve been closed, there could have been a good chance that we might not have reopened at all.

Ruth Terrington, Dobson & Parnell

Business Improvement Districts in Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland and the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative and Advance Northumberland are all now in discussions to make the new software available to potentially thousands more restaurants in the region.

The business operations manager at Sunderland BID told ITV News that around 70 per cent of its member restaurants have been reluctant to operate takeaway services with third party delivery companies due to the high commissions and said the new system could help businesses expand their operations into takeaways as they recover post lockdown.

I do actually think it’ll make a difference between some of them surviving and closing down, because I also think it adds another string to their bow if you like, because as we move forwards and come out of the pandemic, it could really help them to continue with all of the services that they’ve set up as they’ve been going through this.

Sharon Appleby, Sunderland BID

The three national third party delivery companies told ITV News they have been flexible and supported hundreds of thousands of restaurants during the pandemic, by providing delivery services at varying rates of commission.

Just Eat said: 

"Just Eat is only successful if our restaurant partners are successful. We believe our commission rates are aligned with the value we provide to our partners. We have a track record of helping restaurants prosper, from providing millions of pounds worth of support to the many thousands of independent restaurants we work with since the start of the pandemic, to helping businesses raise their profiles, attract more orders and reach more customers through our investment in technology and marketing. We're committed to adding value to our partners’ businesses on a daily basis, and many grow and flourish through working with Just Eat."

Deliveroo said:

“Deliveroo is committed to supporting small, independent restaurants. We have been there for them throughout the pandemic and we will be there during the recovery. From campaigning for a change to government policy to support restaurants, such as the cut in VAT, to introducing new measures to help customers dine-in safely, we have a positive track record of responding to the needs of our small restaurant partners during this challenging time and this will continue to be our absolute priority. It’s important to be very clear that Deliveroo charges different levels of commission depending on each individual arrangement with a restaurant partner and every penny goes directly towards covering operating costs and investing in the Deliveroo platform to improve the service we offer riders, restaurants and customers. This means that we can make sure we have market-leading choice available, that we pay riders well and we offer new measures to help restaurants to grow their business.”

Uber Eats said:

“We are committed to supporting restaurants and the thousands of people who rely on them for work and as an essential service during this difficult time. At the beginning of the crisis, we put in place a range of initiatives to help restaurant partners, particularly small business owners, as they kept their kitchens firing to feed people across the country.”