Slerp & UK White Label Restaurant Food Delivery

Founder of Slerp and Co-Founder of Crosstown

Why is this interview interesting?

  • How Slerp works with customers
  • Differences in Slerp in the UK and Olo in US
  • Why Shopify and Magento are not suited to hospitality SaaS
  • Slerp customer base and AoV
  • How restaurants can own the customer relationship through white label delivery
  • Unit economics of white label delivery in London
  • Challenges for restaurants going direct to customer

Executive Bio

JP Then

Founder of Slerp and Co-Founder of Crosstown

JP is the founder of Slerp, a UK enterprise software solution for restaurants similar to Olo, and cofounder of Crosstown, a leading London-based specialty coffee and doughnut chain. In 2013, JP founded Crosstown and was one of the first customers of Deliveroo and Uber Eats in London. He then founded Slerp to enable restaurants to sell directly to their customers and own the customer data. Slerp has various well known brands such as Gaucho or Roka as customers as well as hotels such as the Savoy and Connaught.Read more

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Interview Transcript

Disclaimer: This interview is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. In Practise is an independent publisher and all opinions expressed by guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of In Practise.

JP, can you start by providing some context to your story building Crosstown donuts?

The story starts about eight years ago, in 2013. I'd been in London at the time for about four years, and being initially born in the UK, I grew up in Australia and moved back. I found that the specialty coffee scene was in its infancy in London. When I moved over, it was really surprising that there weren't many places you could go to get a decent flat white. The story for Crosstown stemmed from creating this specialty coffee concept and how we could scale a business around that sort of theme. But it evolved to what we're most well-known for at Crosstown now, which is the sourdough donut. We invented the sourdough donut. It's got a little cross on it; it's quite well known in London.

We saw a gap in the market for a high-quality handmade product. It was all quite mass-produced and artificial, so we thought, why don't we do scratch baking, use the best ingredients, and develop innovative flavors that use ingredients from the seasons? Why not use, for example, rhubarb, when it's in season, or stone fruit, or whatever we could get our hands-on, and pair it with specialty coffee? The long story short is that we started as a market store, myself and my business partner Adam Wills. Over the last eight years, we've grown it quite considerably into, I guess you could say, an omnichannel brand that's got multiple locations throughout London and is now expanding outside of London. It's not just sourdough donuts anymore. It's cookies, ice cream, and of course, we've got the specialty coffee. There is a whole range of vegan products as well, such as vegan donuts, vegan cookies, and vegan ice cream. That's the story in a nutshell. We started with the idea of pairing coffee with donuts, and it's grown to become an omnichannel hospitality brand now.

What was the history of your relationship with Deliveroo, or delivery in general?

One of the USPs of Crosstown, aside from its product and its brand, has been the progressive mindset. It's always been quite an innovative brand. I didn't know at the time, to be honest, but when I look back at it now, we're always pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation. When we first started in the market stall, we were the first tent to accept Amex with no minimum spend, for example, and people were like, woah, this is crazy, you're a market stall. We were one of the first brands to adopt Deliveroo. When I first met Deliveroo, there were less than 10 people there. It is, in a true sense, a startup business, and of course, has grown significantly over those years. We were an early adopter of that technology.

To put it simply, if I had to think about why we did it, I fully believed that consumer habits would change and evolve and that people would start ordering online. Thinking back to 2014, if I had to crystal-ball gaze in five to 10 years, would people be ordering with their phones, would they be expecting delivery of products, of foods? I fully believed that would be the case. So we adopted Deliveroo, and we were also a launch partner with Uber Eats. When they launched in London, we were one of the first brands to use them. It was really interesting to see the early dynamic of acquiring customers, to see consumer habits change and evolve, and to see the beginnings of some purchasing patterns. People demanded Crosstown through those marketplaces.

What did you see in those early days, in terms of consumer habits?

It was relatively new and innovative in some sense, but I think it was mostly driven through heavy discounting through the marketplaces. So sign up to Deliveroo or Uber Eats and get £10 or £20 free credit and spend it on what you want. Free money can shape habits pretty quickly, and from my view, it started to evolve into, how do we build our product around hitting moments for these customers that they might not be able to get in-store? How do I engage with those customers more directly? That sort of leads us to Slerp. If I had to summarize as simply as possible, I felt that the hospitality sector was ripe for some kind of innovation and disruption, and it would form a part of people's habits to buy online.

What was the founding story of Slerp?

We go back again about six, seven years. As you know now, we were an early adopter of Deliveroo, an early adopter of Uber Eats. There were two big questions that were annoying me in a simple way. One was, how do we engage with our customer directly? We put our blood, sweat, and tears into creating the Crosstown brand, which was growing and had a cult-like following, and was getting a lot of traction. But we didn't know who our customers were that were buying through the marketplaces. So how do we engage with them directly? The second part was the customers were asking us, hey, I want to buy Crosstown for the weekend, or I've got someone's leaving party or a wedding or whatever it was. We couldn't facilitate those types of orders through an ecommerce solution like the marketplaces. So I went on this journey back in 2015 to look at how to do direct-to-consumer online ordering ourselves. How do we transact through Crosstown’s website and engage in that customer base?

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Slerp & UK White Label Restaurant Food Delivery (May 16, 2021)

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