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hungryhouse and Just Eat transformed the takeaway industry in the UK. Now Butterware has joined the fray, providing websites that enable online ordering for the lunch-to-go market.
I spoke to Graeme Simpson, Managing Director and Developer, and quizzed him about the young company.
In one sentence, what is your product/service?
We provide independent, online-ordering websites to sandwich shops and other lunch businesses.
What problem(s) does it solve?
For collection, customers can pre-order and then queue-jump, saving them time. As shops can make those orders in advance, they can serve more customers overall in the busy lunch period.
For delivery, customers can get exactly what they want; no more 'last sandwich on the van'. The delivery van has to carry less speculative stock and will therefore reduce the amount of potential waste each day.
What are your immediate goals?
Our number one goal is education. The lunch-to-go industry isn't particularly up-to-date, technology wise. Most of our potential customers don't know such a system exists and therefore aren't looking for us. We have to reach out to them to let them know the benefits of using Butterware, increasing turnover and saving money.
We're constantly trying to find ways to achieve this but as a small startup with a limited budget, it's hard. The takeaway market is dominated by big players like JustEat and Hungry House but the lunch-to-go market is still fairly open. Plus we've taken a different approach to them by providing individual sites for each business rather than a single portal for all.
We've been working with other suppliers to the industry to do joint promotion. We've also been working with industry bodies and contribute regularly to industry publications that no-one will have heard of here.
What were the biggest challenges involved in building the tech or your team ?
Unlike the takeaway market, there is great deal of variance between how lunch businesses run. We have to support a wide variety of options for things like cut-off times, payment methods and some fairly complex menus. Finding out what each shop wanted and then accommodating them as best we could took some time. We ran as a free beta service for 9 months or so to make sure we'd got it right.
We provide a unique website for each business with their own branding added. For them to be in total control of their own customer base is very attractive but it added quite a bit of initial complexity for us.
Although each website is different, it's actually a single cloud-hosted engine which serves the whole lot. Even when we thought we'd nailed it, as we started to grow we realised we were being too inefficient and had some performance trouble. We rewrote some sections and added some pretty heavy caching throughout the site.
All the sites are very responsive now and growing further should be pretty smooth.
We run everything using cloud services rather than our own servers to reduce admin overhead although this could change in the future.
How will the company make money?
We charge a percentage on all orders placed through the sites. All our billing is automated (of course) so the shop receives an emailed invoice for the month with a breakdown.
Who is in your team?
There are currently seven of us, although none of us yet work exclusively for Butterware. The team is fairly distributed, mostly in Cheltenham but also London and Strasbourg, France. I'm very proud that we have a member of the team dedicated to testing. It really helps us to maintain a high standard of coding.
Personally, my background is quite varied but with a strong lean towards security rather than being an programmer outright. I've worked with small companies right up to government level and my previous jobs have taken me to West Africa and around the Middle East, including a few stints in Iraq during the early reconstruction phase.
- Graeme Simpson - Managing Director & Developer
- Matt Riches - Developer
- David Bourguignon - Developer
- Mat Bissett - Tester
- Louise Simpson - Marketing
- Elliott Richmond - Designer
- Rachael Willoughby - Design administration
Where would you like to be in one, three and five years’ time?
We don't have goals for where we'd like to be in one year, other than on track for our three year goal. That goal is to have at least 500 businesses signed up.
With approximately 15,000 independent sandwich shops in the UK, plus other lunch businesses and larger companies, I think it's an achievable goal. We've already done the hard work, overcome all the technical hurdles we've come across and now we have a great system to show for it.
We just have to get it into the hands of the lunch businesses now.
Other than your own , what are your favorite websites / apps / tools?
Personally, I've always admired Kashflow as a business. They have a great product and attitude to go with it. We've been a customer of theirs since we started and use their excellent API to raise our invoices.
It's wonderful to be able to be so connected with such services. I only wish someone would create a business banking service which was as useful.
We've also recently started working with the online direct debit service, GoCardless. We use them both to collect money for our own invoices and as a partner to allow our shops to offer direct debit as a lunch payment method. They've always been very helpful and have a great business model.