Why Hellofood wasn’t such a good idea from the start

Sometime last year, an internet start up, Hellofood Uganda launched. Their propositions to foodies was simple, that you could order for food from reputable restaurants around Kampala for home or otherwise office delivery. They some how managed to convince a sizable number of restaurants to sign onto their service including, Maurice Kirya’s sound cup. Soon it went into a media buy frenzy in an attempt to recruit users. I do not have the information on how many orders they take per day nor if the venture is profitable (yet). However I have spent a significant amount of time talking to restaurant owners who are also my friends along with consumers of the service and this is an echo of why I am weary that the venture might not have been a such a great idea right from the start.

First, they are not enhancing the food experience. There is just something magical about taking a girl out to a restaurant on a Friday night after catching a movie. And this is so much more about the experience than it is of the food itself. From the ambiance, to the customer care make up centuries worth of expected experience from the act of “eating out” and the amount of happiness that it is associated with. This is the initial issue that the company is going to realize that it is going to have to work against which could in turn yield to low adoption numbers.

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Because, lets face it, when I want to eat, I want to get myself something to munch there and then. It is far less likely that I will have the patience to wait a hour for my order or put up with the delivery guy who just cant get directions right for that matter.

Second, the company will soon realize that most of the food ordered online is fast food, which could quickly become soggy if its not eaten straight off the stove. The other day I was reading an article on the kind of things you do not want delivered to your house and fast foods made the list. Which means, we can essentially deduct that the service that Hellofood delivers is a second rate experience to the real thing. Soon customers will realize that it is far better to spend a few more minutes and money to drive down to the food joint to pick up their own food than it is to have flavorless food delivered to their doorstep.

Third, the relationship between restaurants and Hellofood is likely to hit the rocks, pretty fast. You see at first, restaurants signed on to this service because Hellofood promised to increase their sales by providing an online platform that made restaurant menus available online so that a customer could choose from a number of them. Essentially, Hellofood’s strong selling point is making the menus of a number of restaurants available so that the customer has more options to choose from and this in itself is the first mistake because it clutters the service. When a customer is spoilt of choice, they are more likely to forego the whole purchase all together.

Soon the restaurants will realize that they do not have as much control over the customer experience because Hellofood provides the online service while the restaurants, the product plus delivery. Which means, if an order for a customer does not arrive, a customer will not be in position to know for sure who to hold accountable between the restaurant or Hellofood, which in turn will lead to strained relations on both sides.

A friend of mine who is the PRO for a high end hotel revealed to me that the reason they are not signed onto the service is because they would like to have more control over the whole process and experience, so that their brand is not in any way compromised by a third party.

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8 thoughts on “Why Hellofood wasn’t such a good idea from the start

  1. Thanks Patrick for the post. But I don’t agree.

    This is the argument the bookstores put forward when Jeff Bezos introduced his e-book platform in the early stages of Amazon. This whole discussion about the experience the good-old dead-tree paper books gave users, the whole experience of sitting down somewhere soaked into meditation of the book or walking into a bookstore and browsing through the latest titles. It didn’t work!

    It’s the same thing with HelloFood today. While someone might find taking out a girl to a restaurant as being romantic, other ladies might equally find their boyfriends delivering a surprise of chicken and chaps at their workplaces thoughtful!

    But lets not delve into perceptions, lets look at the economies and convenience both of which drive human decisions. A friend of mine told me instead of getting out of his office, then drive to the nearest restaurant for lunch, he found it cost-effective to simply order his food online. He told me he would save on fuel costs. It would also be convenience for him because he doesn’t have traffic jam to worry about. That’s what Hellofood offers.

    But then again, with such innovations, it’s not an either or situation where the new innovation kills the incumbent ones. Traditional bookstores still exist in the age of Amazon. Similarly traditional restaurants you can walk into and have your meal will co-exist along this new technology.

    • Good argument David however you are dwelling on only one of the points which is the experience. Just a few examples to kick off my argument. The film sales for Kodak between 2001 and 2012 dropped by more than 97% because, they thought that digital cameras would never catch on. Western Union turned down Bell graham’s offer to sell them the copy rights to the telephone because they thought that telegraphs were the future of communication.

      I can give a few instances were the incumbents went into oblivion with the invention of technology. Reverse engineering can achieve tremendous results however when you are doing it for an experience that is hard wired into someone’s DNA, your in for a challenge pal and that is where Hello food will find itself because food and its culture is so hard wired into the belief system of societies, making it a tough nut to crack. Dont fix what is not broken.

      Sure, Hello food will have a few users and a handful of great reviews but they might never reach a point of critical mass like mobile money did. And that is the difference between a good idea and a great idea.

      • Patrick Seruyange wrong again.

        The common denominator about disruptive technologies is that (watch this) THEY CHANGE USERS’ BEHAVIOUR.

        I’ll give an example; Airbnb. Tell me how on earth people would trust totally strangers coming from other cities with living spaces in their own houses? How crazy is that? Accommodating a total stranger in your house for a fee?

        In Uganda for instance, it’s totally bizarre to do that, not even in the villages…and that was the case even in the US before Airbnb came in.

        But Airbnb comes with a system that would change established cultures and behaviors. How they did that is beyond the scope of this comment.

        But compared to Airbnb, Hellofood doesn’t even have too much work changing users’ behavior. Some restaurants in Kampala have been supporting ordering food through calling and some customers have been ordering food through the phone. Hellofood is just making it easier and more scalable for them.

        When I had conversation with someone who works with Jumia Uganda, the online retailer, they told me that people somehow get ordering food online or through an App, but don’t quite get buying a dress online!

        Hellofood meanwhile is one the most successful ventures among all rocket internet companies worldwide if you follow them.

        • If Hello Food is the most successful company of rocket internet, it says a lot. And please do not misunderstand me, this idea could potentially be phenomenon with time. All I merely did was highlight certain hoops they are going to have to jump through in order for the company to scale. Sure they might handle 100 orders per day but when you vs it with all the media buys they are investing, does the 100 orders justify the ad buys. You get my drift?

          And about Airbnb, people have been renting their spare space and putting their summer homes up for hire for as long as I can remember. Therefore Airbnb is not that far fetched and the economic proposition is very clear and straight forward. On the other hand, ordering food online has many trade offs which makes a consumer calculate the opportunity cost twice before making the purchase. Riham cola was good idea, not a great one though. Get the drift?

          Like any invention, you might not land it on the first try and that’s why you have to keep developing and adjusting the model until it makes sense. So I wish them luck but at the same time they need to be aware of what they are up against. I am merely stating the very obvious.

          • But all in all HELLO FOOD a five star rating idea on my side. Because these guys so a big setback a customer will face when entered one of top restaurants in Kampala and waited for a good 30 minutes without receiving any order and compare it with making an order online and continue with your daily schedule at your office is very convenient and some time i know one the it blast into one of good ventures…

  2. U guys are making me to think again….@oquidave:disqus & @patrickseruyange:disqus

    how can i get in contact with you…before i do also a mistake cause somehow
    somewhere Patrick has a point.

  3. @patrickseruyange:disqus good article but i think i beg to differ completely from everything you are saying.

    First of all you are making a mistake of presuming the whole idea is about enhancing food experience. So what is food experience? how is it enhanced? and actually to whom? These are some of the questions that you have failed to answer. In my opinion, it is not about enhancing food experience but rather an issue of convenience, flexibility and innovation.

    Secondly, i think it is unfair to judge Hello Food yet it is still relatively a young tech start-up. I believe your article is mainly based on future predictions which does not mean that they are conclusive. Jack Ma was criticised for starting up alibaba saying it can never work. Further more, Jeff Bezos came up with the concept of e-books when starting Amazon and said exactly the same of what you are saying but look at where the two are now today.

    Thirdly, Who said that most food ordered is fast foods? I think you need to revisit that and see. They do have a range of food varieties you can order online. I for one thinking they can never deliver real food, i ordered for luwombo believing it cannot be delivered but guess what? It was delivered!

    Lastly, am meant to believe that when someone orders food online, he can give a tip. Further more, Hello Food having a variety of restaurants just gives customers a range of many restaurants to choose from. You are well aware that KCCA closes restaurants which do not meet the minimum health and sanitation standards. Why would you then risk having food from only one source?

    Otherwise, nice article though i feel it is based on future assumptions and no examples of such tech start-ups which have failed before Hello Food to back up your case.

  4. This whole article is downright misleading. Right from the headline, which seems to imply that the writer knows something we do not. That he has fallen upon information and data to back him up. But alas. Usual Ugandan article. Not one customer has been interviewed. Not one single restaurant has been quoted. Not one single person is named backing up the story. Patrick, you clearly haven’t taken the time to educate your self on the basic principles of journalism and writing, which you have dived into. You made it worse by not giving HelloFood a chance to respond to your ”theories.”
    For people like me to take what we read seriously, it is becoming more difficult to continue to read material written by most people in Uganda. It leaves you more perplexed with the un-seriousness of Ugandans and the laziness that has creeped into people. You probably did zero research for this article because it is clear as day that all you did was buy some airtime and call a couple of friends who obviously didn’t want to argue with you and went along with your ”theory.”
    You just wasted about ten of my precious minutes reading this article, and more through me writing this response. Next time you put your fingers to a laptop to write something, most especially something negative, please have the sense to back that up with CONCRETE DATA and not your ”friends” views, friends who do not seem to have names.
    To the editors of this website, take the time to read through the material submitted to you and make sure they hold the virtues of truth, fairness and all the other aspects that writing and dispensing information entail before you post in.

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