In this interview JP Then, the founder of Slerp, an e-commerce platform and order management system for the UK hospitality sector, shares valuable tips and tricks for the modern omni-channel restaurant that wants to optimize their online sales channels.

 

How has online and mobile ordering changed the restaurant industry?

 

JP ThenPeople now expect to be able to order from their favorite establishments whenever, wherever and on whatever platform comes to hand first. This has rapidly changed operators' ordering process beyond traditional marketplaces or delivery models. It has accelerated the need for the hospitality sector to have an omni-channel approach to their business. Direct-to-consumer (d2c) online ordering is no longer optional - it forms a pillar of the business plan and is a very exciting growth channel with huge potential. 

There has been a mentality shift that online sales (which have been predominantly driven through marketplaces) was always seen as the ‘incremental revenue’ that didn’t actually make us any money – it’s like this annoying child on the P&L that just doesn’t quite contribute like its bricks and mortar siblings. This perception and attitude has changed. Online ordering is now a hygiene factor in your F&B setup and having a d2c solution is pivotal to this. 

Slerp is focused on enabling d2c e-commerce specifically for the hospitality sector. Although adoption has accelerated since the pandemic, Slerp has been working on its platform since 2016 before launching to market at the end of 2019. A lot of deep thinking has gone into our approach and we have the mindset that we are ‘built by operators for operators’. This really stems from my background of founding the multi-site hospitality brand Crosstown - a business that was founded in 2014 and has had online ordering at the heart of its business for many years. 

 

"Direct-to-consumer (d2c) online ordering is no longer optional - it forms a pillar of the business plan and is a very exciting growth channel with huge potential."

 

And what's your take on the omni-channel trend for restaurants?

 

That it’s not just a ‘Covid band-aid’ solution. It needs to be one of the key building blocks for any sustainable business model moving forward.  Consumers have forged this new online relationship with restaurants and it will not go away. They’ve welcomed their favorite brands into their homes locally and nationally by way of meal kits and delivered dining experiences, and they have loved it.  Testament to that we’ve seen growth upwards of 1000% and huge online volumes for our merchants, in and out of lockdown.

As restaurants return to ‘normal’ trading, online ordering needs to remain a critical piece of their outfit. Every operator needs to sweat every channel. To really succeed, as we have seen many of our Slerp merchants do, you need to have complete control and monetize the message, customer journey, and data. 

E-commerce is not a bolt-on but is now a core pillar to growing a dynamic and relevant business. Slerp is a complementary solution to the marketplace platforms. Profitability is all about enhancing reach and executing on a model that has diversified revenue streams. We feel we are enabling that at Slerp through our e-commerce and order management solutions.

 

Pick-up take-away window in a restaurant

 

How has Slerp been part of this change?

 

I mention the mindset of being ‘built by operators for operators’. This has been pivotal to us establishing ourselves as a leading d2c solution, particularly for premium brands.  We know and understand the hospitality sector intricately which really enables us to fully understand the infrastructure, support and resources that operators need to succeed online.

As an operator at heart, I wanted to build a solution that truly reflects what operators need. Speed, a brand-first approach, fully customizable, an amazing support function, user-friendly for everyone from GM to Ops, transparent customer data - these were all things I had on a wishlist for a platform since we began really focusing on our off-site offering in Crosstown’s early days . Through Slerp I got to actualize this and share it, first as a support solution for the sector during COVID, but now as a growth engine for the future.

Having processed millions of pounds of transactions each month, we know this space better than anyone. I know from conversations I have every day with my merchants that we are really trusted. Not just as an extension of their brand, but as part of their team. Part of the proposition and development of Slerp is that it’s about giving control back to operators. It’s their checkout journey, we're just here to empower them to own it, leverage it and gain well deserved sales.

 

"As restaurants return to ‘normal’ trading, online ordering needs to remain a critical piece of their outfit. Every operator needs to sweat every channel. To really succeed, you need to have complete control and monetize the message, customer journey, and data."

 

Smiling waitress bagging food to go

 

What are your biggest tips or recommendations for restaurant partners? 


Foremost of all, start to view your d2c online channel as a pillar. Aim for it to be a meaningful part of our channel mix - at least 10-20% of your business. By doing this you will open up your mindset to a whole new range of opportunities to engage with your customers.

Optimize every occasion and monetize every promotional moment (i.e. Mothers Day). Seasonal campaigns are where the sales are at.  We've seen incredible results for our merchants over Valentine's Day because they've been able to plan, promote and utilize our full suite of products to leverage seasonal moments and convert them into orders. 

You need to work with a marketing calendar and target special ordering occasions that compliment your concept. Then really shout about it with creative content across your website, social and emails. My tip would be to really leverage your customer base - the post-order automated mailer is something few do. A simple check-in and upsell can produce great repeat custom and build loyalty. It’s low-hanging fruit. By focusing on target people in your marketing or sales funnel has a lower cost of acquisition and a higher adoption rate. Operationally, it's really important to build a dedicated team to look after your d2c revenue stream, just like you'd hire a General Manager. Internal communication is key. Really train and empower your team on your offsite activity. 

 

"Part of the proposition and development of Slerp is that it’s about giving control back to operators. It’s their checkout journey, we're just here to empower them to own it, leverage it and gain well deserved sales."

 

How to maximize your online sales? 

 

Don't be shy to utilise the full range of features, on-demand, pick-up, pre-orders, and nationwide delivery. If your meal kits travel well around London, then they will travel to Leeds. National demand has been so popular, we’ve just launched a new tool called Composer for our merchants that have generated such high volumes they need a production logistics management system.  The demand is there. 

Get social. Instagram is there for offering storytelling but also for instant shopping. Grow your revenue and build organic momentum with paid digital adverts. We have a lot of new product launches this year, aimed to supercharge online orders, increase brand awareness and maximize sales. Raise awareness, drive sales, retarget, grow loyalty and create advocates. That's why all your customer data is self-owned with Slerp. 

My best advice is to really think about how digital marketing can take your growth to the next level. Well targeted creative is the best convertor. We've seen massive gains for merchants taking advantage of our in-house digital marketing services, SlerpGrow. Few operators have the resources or expertise to manage their own online presences. We’re on a mission to help our merchants digitally step up and not only own online delivery but their category too. 

JP Then
March 4, 2021 by JP Then

JP Then is the founder of Slerp, a direct-to-consumer food & beverage online ordering solution, powering hospitality brands with on-demand delivery, pre-orders, click and collect & national shipping.