We had to launch our own delivery force to ensure faster deliveries… – Guillaume Leblond, MD HelloFood

We have been focusing more on gadgets in recent times due to the fast paced activities in that sector of late and especially with everything that we still expect to happen before the year runs out.

Meanwhile, we have been working on this interview with the Managing Director for HelloFood and after a few weeks, we caught up with him. He reveals some of the things that the startup has had to endure operating in Lagos and what sets them apart. Do enjoy.

  • How did Hellofood come to stay? (When was the idea conceived, why was it a necessary idea to implement), and how has the market reception been like?
Two and a half years ago in Lagos food delivery platforms existed in other big countries such as the US, Europe etc. We thought that as a huge city, Lagos deserved its food delivery marketplace to connect people with all types of food cuisines for people to enjoy in all areas of their city and also discover new places. It has since been a great African Story; we opened the platform in Abuja and 10 other cities in Africa (Abidjan, Accra, Nairobi and many more).
The reception has been great. The Hellofood app has been downloaded by tens of thousands, orders have been growing at a fast pace and more & more restaurants are contacting us to partner with them. I think Hellofood helps Lagosians place fast and easy orders especially when we know how phone lines and lost in translation can affect this task here.
  •  What is the standard operating procedure of your service? Plus, do you regard Hellofood as a tech company?
The first thing is that our user tells us their location; they select an area with the Hellofood app, we then show all the relevant restaurants around that can deliver to them. You can choose the type of cuisine, brands, prices and select a restaurant. They then see the full menu with pictures which is always the same price as in the restaurant. They compose a basket and check-out in a few seconds. Hellofood then transmits automatically the order to the restaurant and has the call centre ensure everything is on point and follows up on orders. Hellofood is not just a software, it is a team fighting to get food cooked as desired and delivered on time, we are very proud of that.
We are definitely a tech company, bringing an online interface to the food industry, connecting restaurants with customers with innovative tools and software’s.
  •  How is Hellofood different from its competitors?
Hellofood are the only food ordering platform to have an app, we have 5 times as many restaurants as our second competitor and the investments made in delivery (i.e. bikes, riders,) ensure we have the best customer experience, which is what matters most!
  •  What are the problems/challenges that Hellofood still faces and why is it still difficult to overcome them?
We can think of 2 challenges; the first is operational, food is super important for the people who order and it needs to be delivered on time piping hot. This can be tough sometimes and comes with a lot of stress for us; we don’t want our customers to wait.
Secondly, is convincing everyone that ‘Yes, you can order your lunch online and it will get to you! Some people doubt it at first, we are very confident it is just a matter of time here. Two years back very few people ordered a phone or shoes online, now it is a standard.
  • Does Hellofood have additional services? If yes, what are they and their function?
Yes we do; we initially started as a pure marketplace, letting restaurants handle their delivery.  However, since we launched our delivery force to ensure faster deliveries we also opened delivery to restaurants and brands that did not do it.
We also have a B2B department dedicated to companies and events. Hellofood assist, secure and offer great solutions for groups taking the stress away.
  •  What’s the staff strength of Hellofood and what’s the internal culture like? (The values and  life in the company).
We are a lean team of around 25 people, growing fast day by day. Everyone is young so it’s a lively and funny group! We believe in teamwork, open communication and are all very proud to be in this disruptive and innovative sector. People here are builders.
  •  What’s the market share of Hellofood and how much work is left to be done?
That’s a tough question, as we do not do market studies. We don’t have the time to undertake market studies because we know the market is big enough and our growth in it is satisfying. I know we are the biggest online food platform, now the deal is to bring a lot of people online in this sector.  We are not really competing for the online pie but we want to create a HUGE online pie, this is what is exciting.  A lot of work is still ahead; in London, probably a hundred thousand people order a lunch online every day; Lagos will eventually get there too!
  •   Are there spaces in the food industry that new comers can take advantage of?
I think delivery is a new and growing space here, there is still a gap between offer and demand. Lagos is a great city for delivery: it is huge, congested, people are busy. To meet this hunger, the offering is still relatively small, more and more restaurants are opening delivery; even pure delivery players have come to join us.  Those who really focus on customer experience, packaging, operations have a great card to play.
  •   What are the most important tools (especially technology tools) that Hellofood cannot do without?
Internet! Essentially, as we know good internet is not a given everywhere here, especially for some small businesses we partner with, we created tools to interact with our vendors. Take our GPRS printer for example, this printer works on a basic SIM and transmits orders instantly to restaurants that don’t have internet access.
  •   Are there any policy constraints that inhibit the growth of Hellofood?

Two years ago a law was passed banning small bikes from many areas. Restaurants and businesses had to invest in bigger bikes the industry took a hit there, compared to other countries where you can set up a small scooter to deliver food. But it has adapted a part from policies affecting restaurants (food imports etc). I do not see other specific policy risks for us.

  •  Where is Hellofood likely to be in the next 5 years?
Our ambition is to be the marketplace people think of when they think about food and delivery in all our cities. The one stop shop that has all the variety, all the prices and delivers great customer experience. And we really mean everyone we partner with super popular bukkas where you can order a meal for NGN400, we want to be everyone`s ally in their quest for on time and well packaged food. We`ll also introduce great innovations for people to order in 2 clicks and track their order real time.
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