The last year and a half have been a period of tremendous turmoil in the restaurant industry. Entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry that are still keeping their heads high and working hard to serve their customers, need a pat on the back. The COVID pandemic has made the world unpredictable and has resulted in a significant change in customer behaviour. Not knowing whether your customers would be allowed in your store next month, or whether you will be able to seat only a fraction of your available seating has resulted in many stores closing. If the store did not close, its owners have probably contemplated closing at some point in time.

Times of hardship are ideal breeding grounds for new ideas, breakthroughs, new strategies and new direction. For the restaurant industry, the rise of food delivery has meant a re-think. Food delivery is not new, but when it changes from only 6% of your revenue to 46% of your revenue in a matter of a few months it requires a re-think of how your business needs to be managed. As was the experience of a restaurant owner of a well-known franchise restaurant in a busy area in Midrand.

For the coffee industry the potential of food delivery is largely untapped. Mainly due to two reasons. Firstly, the typical products served at coffee shops are not designed for the delivery. Getting a coffee delivered to a customer, hot and not spilled, is not that easy. Combine it with an Eggs Benedict and it seems to be a customer complaint on a platter (served on the back of a motorbike). With the resultant damage to your brand and the financial loss associated with it, it is not the most appealing business venture.

The second reason is the perception that the 3rd party delivery platforms are just too expensive. That they make more money than the coffee shop and does not add value to your brand.

There are many different views about whether delivery is a sensible route to take, especially in the coffee industry. The coffee shops that decided to enter this market (there are a few brave business owners out there) did so with trepidation and care. Most not even marketing the option of delivery to their clients. Almost like the brother in jail you wish were not there… Still, when we talk to them, they seem to be at a point where even with the associated issues, the option of delivery is still worth the effort.

Given the development of the CoffeeLIFT seal™ and the Cool Hot Box, the practical dilemma with delivery of beverages has been resolved. CoffeeLIFT started out as a delivery platform. Very much the same as the current 3rd party delivery platforms available (Mr D and UberEats).

We developed our three apps to connect the customer, the restaurant and the driver and we did a few thousand deliveries since August 2020.

Our focus has been solely on coffee shops. We believed this to be a niche market, underserved by the current delivery platforms available due to the inability of consistently delivering a cup of coffee hot and not spilled. The delivery method used is not conducive to proper customer service and therefore we saw an opportunity to access this market and grow our business.

Our business grew as coffee shop owners started to see the effectiveness of the patented CoffeeLIFT delivery method. They were able to actively market their delivery options to clients during the various lockdown phases without fear of having to field customer complaints about spilled beverages. Our success rate in delivering coffee, Hot and not Spilled were amazing. Even we were surprised. The effectiveness of the CoffeeLIFT seal™ were beyond our wildest dreams.

Have a look at our Youtube channel for some fun tests to showcase the amazingness of this invention: https://youtube.com/channel/UC-N6DG2Wsuw7EQu5IRSqBtQ

All our drivers had at least two of the CoffeeLIFT Cool Hot Boxes with them. These were swopped out with the Cool Hot Boxes that were with each of the restaurants on our delivery platform. Beverages were prepared by the barista, sealed and immediately placed in the Cool Hot Box at the restaurant. This allowed the restaurant to prepare the beverages and the food orders in advance, prior to the driver arriving. Given our Cool Hot Box can keep a coffee hot for up to an hour (true story), the driver could arrive a few minutes later and without having to spend time at the restaurant, swop his Cool Hot Box for the ones at the restaurant and off he goes. Quite a neat system, we thought.

Why did we stop? Well mainly due to the realisation that establishing a new delivery platform in a market dominated by the current players is not as easy as it sounds. The marketing spend that is required were beyond our reach. Couple that with the “untold” stories of what happens behind the scenes of a delivery platform to make things work and you have a nightmare in the making. While software facilitates the process, it is not without significant human support. Especially if you want service levels to stay high and you do not have millions of dollars to spend on software development… The other reason we stopped was due to a pivot in our strategy earlier in 2021.

As the product became better known in the industry, the requests for support on the platform started to increase. We never marketed the product (the CoffeeLIFT seal™ and Cool Hot Box) widely, as we were still a “local” service provider, without a national reach. The awareness of the product and service were bound to change due to social media. When this happened, we realised that we were inadequately resourced to roll out our platform and assist everyone that was asking for assistance with deliveries. 

So, we decided to allow restaurants to use the products for deliveries on any delivery platform. Until then, our contract stated that the CoffeeLIFT seal™ and Cool Hot Box were only allowed to be used for deliveries facilitated via the CoffeeLIFT delivery platform. This did not change things significantly early on, as most of our restaurants were only using the CoffeeLIFT platform. Many of them only considered deliveries as an option due to our unique and patented delivery method. 

At the time our delivery platform was close to a year old. We have done a few thousand deliveries and we were convinced more than ever that the product is just too good not to be shared. We started to receive interest from a few bigger stores and well-known brands. We had to decide on where best to spend our time and limited resources. We chose to market the product and, in the process, make it possible for any restaurant to access deliveries as a viable option during a time where deliveries could well be the reason why a store were able to keep their doors open. 

We really want to make a positive difference to this world. This is our contribution. Enabling a coffee shop, and any other store for that matter, to improve their business and especially their customer service drastically by ensuring a spill-free delivery. In the process we will be part of creating more jobs, for baristas and delivery drivers. They are a special bunch of people. That is the other thing we learned this past year. 

Given that all 3rd party delivery platforms do not use our Cool Hot Box (yet), the CoffeeLIFT seal™ still solves a big part of the problem. It eliminates spills and assists in retaining heat or cold. It is definitely a delivery revolution. While you can do your own “short-run” deliveries using both the Cool Hot Box and the CoffeeLIFT seals, using the CoffeeLIFT seals for 3rd party delivery platforms is a game changer and will put you ahead of the rest. Saying it, humbly… But it is true, it works like you won’t believe it!

In the next blog we will have a look at the financial viability of deliveries.

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