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How to Covid-19 it like a start-up: Thoughts from the tech sector Part I


At RA Group we are very proud to partner with London’s brightest tech start-ups. We learn from both their expertise and from their attitude. Entrepreneurs see opportunities where others see problems – and more than ever, this is the mindset we need right now.

So, we got together with three of our favourite start-up founders and asked them what their thoughts are for the hospitality sector. How do we Covid-19 it like a start-up? Check out our webcast on You Tube by clicking here , when we spoke with:

Julian Mills – Founder and CEO of Quorso
Marc Zornes – Founder and CEO of Winnow
Riya Grover -Founder and CEO of feedr
Ian Braithwaite – CIO for Compass UK

“Coronavirus means that all the cards have been thrown up into the air and will land in a different way. Start-ups are go-karts and can move very quickly to respond to situations like this” – Julian.

Here are four new opportunities that our entrepreneurs see coming out of the current crisis:

#1:   18 different types of yoghurt… (do less, win more)

Riya: “Like with wartime rationing, we are going through a mentality shift with more tolerance for more pre-planning, more pre-selection and comfort with fewer options. In the past we have been way too used to seeing 18 different types of yoghurt. That excessive choice is where most of the waste happens.”

Julian: “Choice has previously been important as a source of competitive advantage. What we can now see is that smart businesses are focusing on a few core lines. It’s now less about choice and more about the operational execution. I may not care if there are 18 types of yoghurt, but I do want there to be a yoghurt on the shelf when I go in there. I do want that restaurant to have everything on its menu even if that menu isn’t huge.

For most businesses, the defining characteristic coming out of this is: Can you really deliver an excellent experience when sites and supply chains are disrupted? Operational excellence will be key

How to apply this?….

We are building in simplicity, reliability and favourite tastes into our new range of grab-and-go menus for our return to on-site catering – keeping the ingredients simple, reliable (British supply) and high-quality.


#2: Be safe and sustainable

Marc: “Given where we are today, you have to look at it first from a health and safety perspective. There will be more disposables. But think about sourcing and recycling as a way to mitigate. A common theme I’ve seen is a doubling down in clients wanting to solve environmental issues. When you have uncertainty – like now – systems are inefficient. Sustainability is another lens in doing things in a more efficient way.   – How do you source better? Minimise waste? Buy food rescued from farms?”

Riya: “This crisis has thrown out a lot of questions about our use of excessive amounts of food, respect for the environment and the way workers are treated… we support an eco-friendly delivery fleet and we work with our vendors on waste reduction because respect for environmental practices is increasing, even with coronavirus”.

How to apply this?

We are working with partners like Waste Knot and FareShare to buy food that would otherwise be wasted and recycle food that we can’t use. We also support suppliers like Cup Club who offer ways to recycle or re-use single-use disposables

#3: Break the boundaries between home and out-of-home

Jon: “We have seen a 2000% increase in number of users accessing our digital systems at Compass.. I do believe this will be the new norm and people will realise it’s got some real benefits. That said, interacting on video is really intense, work-life balance is disrupted and people are shattered”.

Julian: “We’ve gone from 6% to over 50% working remotely. We think a lot of those won’t go back to working full time in the office. This creates opportunities to redesign and reengineer how we work as organisations. How can we use data in a rich way to help run our organisations, rather than having managers running around?”

Riya: “We’ve seen flexibility as the norm among the tech community, and now it will become more of the norm among traditional workplaces. We built our food delivery system with flexible organisations in mind. Flexibility is really important when we have no idea if we are going to see 1,000 or 300 people in the workplace…

Now we think we will see the reach of the workplace experience into home life. We will see home delivery kits and new ways for workplaces to support wellbeing, even when employees are at home. Companies are going to re-think the boundaries of where their involvement is in employees’ home lives. We have a role supporting these workforces not just when they are in the building, but their broader wellbeing and lifestyles outside of work as well.”

How to apply this?….

We have started webcasts for our consumers that include cookery classes, wine tasting, kombucha making and nutrition and sleep advice. This is breaking boundaries between in- and out-of-home eating, positioning us as a broader food and wellness advisor to our consumers for the long term.

#4: Reinvent social interaction

Riya: “Lunch is a very social occasion and the heart of how people interact with others. We need to think about how we use tech to bring back interaction…. For example, integrating digital workplace chat into lunch offers, sharing ratings and favourites – and building conversation into our products even where we’re not allowed to stand near each other”.

These lessons will be equally important to bricks-and-mortar based businesses. For example, we will need to find new ways of giving our consumers a warm welcome, if a mask makes a friendly smile much harder.


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