One of the best parts about festivals and special events is the incredible food: restaurants set up stalls next to food trucks, who work next to nan and pop stalls making traditional food from different cultures. But the downside is that the lines are always long and most stalls only take cash, leaving you running around trying to find an ATM.
Brisbane startup StreetEats, founded by Chris Illuk, Michael Sive, and Jace Patel, wants to help solve these problems by streamlining the city’s street food scene through an app.
Essentially, the app is like a restaurant or cafe paging system, without customers actually having to go to the restaurant to order first. Designed for food trucks and market stalls, the app lets customers order and pay for food, then get a notification telling them to go pick it up when it’s ready. They can also track the progress of their order in real time.
The idea for the app came from the founders’ experiences on both sides of the street food experience, as both truck workers and as customers. They frequently saw customers walk away from vendors because they were frustrated by long lines.
As Chris Illuk, co-founder and head of business development at StreetEats, explains it, the uses of the app are twofold.
“From the customer’s perspective, we have built a smartphone app that allows them to view nearby food trucks and food events, to view their menus, and to order and pay through the app. They receive a text message when their food is ready to collect,” he said.
“From the vendor’s perspective, we provide a two-tablet solution that includes an extremely lightweight point of sale system to take and manage cash and mobile orders, and a virtual docket line. Mobile orders automatically appear on the point of sale and are sent to the docket line for preparation when accepted.”
There are number of similar apps available to the food and drink industry, but Illuk said the team has worked to determine the specific needs of the food truck market in order to develop a product that is custom-built for them.
“StreetEats differentiates itself in that we are targeting a niche market with its own unique set of problems, which are not easily solved by more ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions that are currently available,” Illuk said.
StreetEats charges vendors a fee for orders that are made through the app. If vendors are extremely busy – as often happens with street food stalls – they can pause the ordering function or reject orders.
The startup went the pounding the pavement route to get vendors on board, actively participating in food truck events and spending face to face time with operators and event organisers.
“We are now beginning to experience a network multiplier effect thanks to some of our first vendor customers becoming advocates for our brand. This has brought in our first wave of vendor sign ups through referrals. The street food scene is small and business owners talk to each other. If we do good they all know about it straight away, likewise if we do bad,” Illuk said.
When it comes to user acquisition, Illuk hopes that StreetEats will flourish mostly from word of mouth.
“The street food scene is super local, tribal almost. A large part of most successful food trucks businesses is their ability to create loyal fans through social media. Our commitment is to providing a great experience for vendors and users who hear about us organically,” he said.
Illuk said that the biggest challenge the startup has faced so far is securing reliable and cheaper payment processing, the crux of the app’s offering, after having dealt with outages from its current merchant facility provider. The team is now working with a number of FinTech founders to help solve this problem.
The development of StreetEats was initially funded by the founders, who then secured capital through the iLab Accelerator. The startup is also one of seven to have been selected to take part at last week’s RiverPitch event, where the founders pitched to a group of investors.
“We’re currently looking to raise a round of funding that will allow us to grow to 100 Australian vendors in 6 months. We’re also in discussions about our first venue/event wide implementation, which would put a whole event space permanently on the StreetEats network, inclusive of all participating vendors at that venue,” Illuk said.
Image: Michael Sive & Chris Illuk. Source: Provided.