Deliverect: The backbone of on-demand food

Deliverect, a startup unicorn co-founded in 2018, integrates third-party food delivery platforms with restaurant POS (point-of-sale) systems, automating delivery to allow for a more efficient system – and they do it well! 

With a mission to be the backbone of on-demand food and to help businesses connect with their customers, Co-Founder and CEO Zhong Xu started Deliverect just four years ago with Jan Hollez, Jelte Vrijhoef and Jérôme Laredo, but their journey to success has been far longer than that. 

“I can tell you, you cannot build this company in four years. We have been [in the restaurant business] for the last twenty years. 

“We have offices in 14 countries and serve more than 40 markets. It’s not our first time [in the restaurant business]."

First steps 

At the age of five, Zhong moved to Belgium with his family. His father, a highly educated man, was studying for a PhD at the time, and to make ends meet, he would work in restaurants cleaning dishes and doing what he could to support his family. Eventually he went on to own a software company for POS delivery. It was Zhong’s father who instilled on him an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong work ethic. 

“Typical of coming from an immigrant family, the dad will tell you to work. At the age of 16 or 17, [my father] was taking me to these restaurants … and he said ‘hey there's something called the Internet and these restaurants want to have websites’. So, that's how I started my first gig. I created over 1,000 websites. They were very ugly because I didn't [know] how to code at that time. But it was a really good side hustle for [someone of] that age.” 

What the restaurant industry impressed upon Zhong was a realisation that it is more than just a place to get food. It is a hub that brings people together. 

“It's an industry that connects people, and it's industry that is the glue of our society.” 

From Lightspeed to Deliverect 

A self-confessed serial entrepreneur, Zhong gained an M.Sc. degree in software engineering in 2009, and created the first iPad POS in EMEA in 2012, together with Co-Founder Jan Hollez. 

This SaaS company evolved into the company known as Lightspeed and is available in more than 100 countries around the world. Zhong was Global Director of Lightspeed Hospitality until 2018, when he co-founded Deliverect. 

Today Deliverect powers more than 32,000 restaurants around the world and has processed more than 220 million orders, which, according to Zhong, is around 2,030 a second. 

The technology 

Described as an omni-channel restaurant management system, Deliverect is a software platform that connects delivery channels, allowing food businesses to facilitate: 

Order management – by integrating online orders and synchronising them with existing POS systems 

Menu and stock management – by allowing businesses to keep track of stock and update online menus in one click 

Insights – by using analytics and reporting functions to allow restaurants to understand their businesses 

Dispatch – management of delivery through direct channels to enhance customer satisfaction 

“We allow restaurants to sell multi-channel. A restaurant today is very much digital. The digital side of a restaurant is more important than the physical side. And that has a lot to do with COVID.” 

The COVID accelerator 

Before the pandemic, restaurants mainly used POS systems. However once COVID hit, restaurants still needed to deliver but in a more digital way. So, they signed up to multiple delivery platforms which caused a lot of mess, created confusion, spurred inefficient management, and cost a lot of money. 

At the point of COVID, the premise of Deliverect had been running for a year and Zhong could see the value the company could bring. By utilising technology, they could offer a unique streamlined solution to restaurants.  

The restaurant business and the way people order are a myriad of twists and turns. There are numerous ways to place orders online, via a number of different platforms. These orders then need to be filtered back to the restaurant, and more importantly to the kitchen of the restaurant that is selling the food. It then needs to be sent back out to the correct carrier and then on to the customer. 

“COVID accelerated digitalisation. Suddenly you’re ordering food from … a kiosk, or you’re ordering using a QR code, or you’re ordering using digital menu and so on. How people are ordering [is evolving], it’s very much digital … Deliverect wants to make sure that we’re giving control back to these restaurants. 

“Imagine a restaurant and you have all these online channels … how do you make sure it all [gets to and from the right place] … We allow you to sell online but also get any order directly in the kitchen without any human interaction. So, we’re really bringing restaurants to the digital era.” 

Helping ease the pressure of inflation 

The ability to integrate services onto one platform means that restaurants are not only able to increase their revenue, but they can free up time to ensure the satisfaction of their customers. 

Zhong assert that to move forward in business, it’s not about thinking of the next big idea for the sake of it. Instead, it’s about listening to the people around you. It’s about listening to the people who are passionate about their business and understanding how you can help them. 

“With inflation, two things are really important. One. Cost of labour is extreme, and it's very hard, especially in the UK, for example, with Brexit, to have people want to work in a restaurant, so there is labour shortage. Two. Making sure that you have less wastage. People don't know that, especially in the restaurant environment, it's a low modulus. Because [of the] cost of food, anytime there's a mistake [with a] wrong order, or [a] refund, that costs the restaurant a lot of money. We help to reduce almost 80% of errors. 

“When an average restaurant joins us [they] increase their top line revenue by 45%.” 

What’s next 

“I think what makes us so strong is our culture. When we started the company, everyone thought it was too radical. [But] because our culture ties everyone together, it allows us to support scaling at [a fast] rate … We have rules, [they’re] just driven by values, and everyone holds each other accountable. 

“We will continue to grow. The restaurant industry is massive, so we will continue to focus on helping as many restaurants as we can … digitally we are the backbone [of the restaurant industry].”