Q&A with Secret Takeaways

Secret Takeaways is an app dedicated to connecting consumers and independent takeaway restaurants with direct ordering, specifically for Click & Collect. Founded in May 2021, their mission is to eliminate the industry reliance on third party food delivery apps, enhancing... Read more

Blog1st Mar 2022

By Jordan Thomson

Secret Takeaways is an app dedicated to connecting consumers and independent takeaway restaurants with direct ordering, specifically for Click & Collect. Founded in May 2021, their mission is to eliminate the industry reliance on third party food delivery apps, enhancing the direct relationship between customer and restaurant.

Through encouraging customers to order direct from the restaurant, businesses can avoid commission charges of up to 30% from third party delivery apps and customers can save, on average, 23% per order. Ten months since it all began, their app has now launched and they are present in three UK cities and have recently secured £1million of funding to support further growth.

AAB’s Jordan Thomson, a member of our dedicated Food and Drink team, caught up with Stuart Cooper, Head of Operations and Finance at Secret Takeaways to find out more about the business, the challenges of launching during lockdown, future plans for Secret Takeaways and advice for those also looking to begin a new venture.

 

Do you want to start by telling us a bit more about Secret Takeaways and what makes you different from other delivery apps?

When using third party delivery apps, once customers make their order, the payment is split in two. The third party delivery apps take a cut of the order, meaning restaurants get less profit compared to when a customer orders direct. Commission charged by these third party delivery apps can be often up to 35% and, on some occasions, we’ve been told by restaurants they have been charged in excess of 55%.

Secret Takeaways focuses solely on the discoverability part of this model where we work with businesses to help drive customers to them, using our app to get them discovered. Secret Takeaways sends customers from the app to the restaurant’s own website where they can then order directly, either via an online ordering platform or by phone, meaning more profit is kept by the restaurant from each order.

 

How did the business come to be? What inspired the idea and who is the leadership team that got the business going?

It all started during lockdown! At the time we actually had a separate business in online real estate, but, as with many people, we wanted to do what we could to encourage people to support local during the pandemic. In April 2020, we simply made a shared Google sheet of restaurants taking direct orders around Edinburgh. This proved really popular, but we didn’t do much else with this as we were fully focused on the day job.

Fast forward a year later, we were sitting in the office one night, discussing the commission charges third party apps were enforcing on the hospitality industry and thought ‘there must be another way’. Secret Takeaways was subsequently born late one night in early May, and we launched one month later in Edinburgh.

Since launching in Edinburgh we’ve had over 100,000 users and have 25,000 people on our app that launched in October.

In terms of leadership, Callum McPherson is CEO, I’m Head of Operations and Finance, Clara Gomes is our marketing manager, Andreas Granmo joined us recently as CTO and we have Andrew Garden who is Head of Product who also joined recently.

 

When the idea came about, how did you get a plan together to take the business to market?

We simply got ourselves into a room and decided how we could fill the gap in the market and support local independent businesses in the best way possible while also creating a business model that made sense from a scalability and growth perspective.

We launched via an online web app initially, and reached out to restaurants who signed up in advance of the launch. It was really important to get the right balance of restaurants to customers, making sure there was enough variety for consumers whilst also ensuring we had enough demand from consumers for our restaurants listed on the platform.

To help spread the word, we also reached out to influencers in the food scene, such as Plate Expectations in Edinburgh and Just Jess and Chris Eats in Glasgow. Social media is a central part of our business and will be important going forward as it is a good way to penetrate different geographical markets and, as food and drink is such an exciting sector, we have an abundance of content available that appeals to consumers.

 

And what features on your platform make you different to similar businesses and third party delivery apps?

One of the big differences is that we help develop our restaurants’ brands and connect them back to their customer. When customers order from restaurants via third party delivery apps, it is not just the commission they charge, but they also own the data as well. When you order directly from a restaurant, the restaurant has your email address, they know you’re a loyal customer, and we want restaurants to rediscover that connection and take back control of both their customer base and revenue. We also help tell restaurants’ stories, through both their listing and through social media, about their business, products, chefs, recipes and anything else that may be important for these restaurants.

We also work alongside the business – for example, we provide guidance on improving their social media content and optimising their listing to make them as desirable to consumers as possible. We’ve had some great feedback from a number of businesses both established and newly launched who have really seen the benefit of being on our platform.

Like our customers, we care about these local businesses and want to help as much as possible. We focus on high quality, local independents that our customers will love.

In terms of direct competitors, there aren’t too many at the moment but with the fast moving pace of the market we expect this to change soon. As such we are always working to improve user experience on the app with new and improved features as well as activating the best restaurants/takeaways in each of the cities in which we are based. We’ve recently launched new features that allow you to browse by mood, such as ‘Family gatherings’ or ‘Netflix and chill’, and you can add restaurants to your own personal favourites list.

Obviously, in order to keep ahead of the curve, we are expanding where we operate. We launched in Edinburgh in June 2021, then Glasgow one month later. This month we have launched in Manchester with a very similar launch playbook, and over time we’re looking to expand across the UK and, ultimately, internationally.

 

Congratulations on your £1 million funding secured, can you describe the process of securing that funding and what your plans are for the investment?

Thank you. We had some existing investors in our real estate business, so we reached out to them to let them know about the launch of Secret Takeaways.

Callum and myself initially created an investor deck to share the Secret Takeaways story and our growth plans. Once complete we pulled together of a list of high net worth individuals/angel syndicates in our network to pitch to. It was amazing to share our story with them, discussing how much we had achieved in four months from both a revenue perspective and in terms of numbers of platform users. It was a good story to tell; people thankfully and rightfully got behind us. We were also oversubscribed for the funding round, which showed the success and interest in what we were doing.

 

With lockdowns easing, are you worried about people potentially ordering fewer takeaways?

No. Gone are the days of takeaways being a Friday or Saturday treat, the acceleration of the food delivery market in recent years has been incredibly rapid. Now, if you wanted, you could get food delivered for every meal of the day. Restaurants are also starting to take back control of their ordering and realising the benefits of getting more direct orders. We really are at the start of this cycle and expect this trend to both continue and speed up in the coming months and years.

Through lockdown, we saw the launch of more ‘dining experiences’ to enjoy in your home, for example steak night kits or afternoon tea, and we have these listed on the app too, so that’s just another area of expansion in the takeaway market that we also support. It’s a really exciting time for the sector so we’re looking forward to seeing what comes next.

 

And finally, what are your recommendations to others looking to launch a business?

Speak to as many people as possible, as this essentially gets you a lot of free advice! Be open and speak to people that have done it before, find out what they did and didn’t do, what mistakes they made and what their learnings were. We have a lot of similarities with Skyscanner, as it’s a similar idea but in a different industry, so we have had a lot of conversations from ex Skyscanner staff.

It is an obvious one, but get a good team around you. You need people in the early days who will go above and beyond for the business.

Scottish Enterprise are great to speak to for advice and funding opportunities. We also spent time at Codebase events to network and meet potential investors and speak to people who are happy to pass on their experience.

My top piece of advice is: work to short timeframes. It can be tough, but it keeps things moving! As Elon Musk said, “If you give yourself 30 days to clean your home, it will take you 30 days. But if you give yourself 3 hours, it will take 3 hours.” The same applies to your goals, ambitions, and potential.

 

To find out more about our dedicated Food and Drink team, click here.

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