The coronavirus diaries: Slerp

What a whirlwind the last two months has been. We have seen any sense of a normal approach to life go out the window. As an F&B business owner, we have had to think fast and be creative in order to give ourselves a chance for survival. 

With so many sectors hit, it’s clear the hospitality industry is amongst the worst impacted, particularly the independents. Almost overnight, businesses have seen the ways they traditionally interact with their customers limited, and in many cases, businesses have had to adapt not only how, but what they sell to meet the needs of the current climate. And I believe a lot of the behaviours we are seeing are here to stay. 

What has become crystal clear, is the need for businesses to be agile and adapt their ‘normal’  model. When it comes to food businesses, now more than ever, it is vital to engage with your customers online, and offer on-demand and delivery options wherever possible. 

This is something that we at Slerp have been supporting businesses to do, not only during lockdown but before this whole crisis began  – helping businesses to pivot their model and quickly offer an on-demand and pre-order solution to their customers, and keep the cash coming in.

Slerp is an ordering technology designed to enable operators to take control of the customer journey for store pick-up to on-demand delivery, directly with the customer (widely referred to as direct-to-consumer, or d2c). Slerp isn’t a marketplace or aggregator – this means we don’t pitch operators against one another in a list of results where ultimately those listed at the top will do better trade. 

Instead we power operators websites with a checkout solution, providing a digital channel to drive customers towards so they can engage directly with them. This has enabled hundreds of businesses to open a new direct revenue stream with the added ability to control orders directly, along with being able to utilise their data. 

Over the last few weeks, the need to offer d2c on-demand and delivery options has naturally come to the fore. At Slerp, we are working around the clock to get businesses live and trading in a matter of hours –  we have removed any setup fees to give these companies the opportunity to pivot quickly without outlay, and rise to the challenges of the current climate.

I am in a very unique position. I see both sides of a fence as an operator, and also as a provider of (a now) highly relevant technology solution. Having the mindset as an operator to adopt new technology is the first mental hurdle – you have to accept that d2c online ordering is here to stay and if you don’t do it, your competitors are. The next, is accepting that your business is very likely needing to pivot its offer to remain relevant.  

We recently partnered with Millers Bespoke Bakery and The Estate Dairy to launch The Crosstown Collective, a collaboration to pool resources and deliver boxes of fresh food and drinks across the city. Selling eggplants certainly wasn’t part of the original Crosstown business plan… 

The concept of The Crosstown Collective was born from the immediate and unprecedented need for the population to reduce social contact and remain at home. Our aim was to focus on the fundamentals that we control, which in our case, was the ability to continue delivering the best food to our customers and ensuring a huge amount of fresh produce does not go to waste, but through a newly set-up, safe and fast channel (we were lucky to have Slerp to react quickly). 

It’s something we are continuing to work on, and we have been excited to welcome new partners to the Collective Boxes including the likes of St Johns (for their amazing box wines), and Caravan Coffee Roasters.. 

With all the difficulty we are seeing at this time, it has been a sign of hope to see businesses not only surviving, but continuing to build during this time through our work with Slerp.

Provisions, a Cheese & Wine shop based in Islington delivering through Slerp, is an example of a business that has been able to continue trading and building on the momentum of the business by its decision to pivot to an online and delivery model. Led by Hugo Esquerre, the team has come together and shifted mindset, successfully opening a new revenue stream at this time and maintaining its core customer base.

It is examples like these that allow us to look to the future, in an industry that I predict will look a lot different on the other side of all this.

At Slerp, we believe d2c online ordering is the future, and the current climate has simply accelerated some of the industry moves that were already happening. 

While there are still many challenges in our way, for example how the hospitality sector balances dine-in experiences with the need to be socially distant, it is our belief that moves such as shopping more locally and independent is here to stay, and we’re looking forward to helping more businesses rise to these challenges by pivoting their traditional model for the new norm.

By JP Then, founder of Slerp and Crosstown Doughnuts

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