How online food takeaway success could pave the way for new business

One of Malta’s latest dotcom brainwaves has set the standard for local online businesses, registering around €500,000 in transient business every month and a 100% annual growth rate

The secret to food-ordering web portal Time To Eat’s success is simple in itself, though not necessarily in its execution: it was the first to market with a useful product in a sector abounding with repeat customers.

And in the four years since its inception, Time to Eat has accumulated over 50,000 users with more than 250 restaurants all over the island subscribing to the model.

Key account manager Zak Cassar told MaltaToday of the original Danish concept developed in 2001. “The Danish company, then called e-takeaway Aps, functioned on the premise that consumers would be interested in using novel sites and applications which would make their lives easier, especially in the restaurant and grocery take-away industries,” he said. 

In 2013 Peter Hansen Thorslund, Jacob Appel and Jan Dalsenger launched Time to Eat and made it their mission to provide users with a lightning-fast and hassle-free online portal to order food, offering take-away or delivery options.  

“The service is showing no signs of stopping,” Cassar said. “We can’t help but wonder whether it was just a lucky break or a sign that the online trend is here to stay.” 

A 2016 MaltaToday poll had shown that 25% of respondents claimed to eat out at least once a week (or more) and that this had been so since 2009. The study also revealed a 13-point decrease in the percentage of people who rarely or never went out to eat, indicating that over the years, more and more Maltese choose to eat out. 

The site’s traffic and take-up reflects this growing trend.

“We sell approximately €500,000 in value of takeaways per month, with sales increasing by 100% each year,” Cassar said. 

That makes the site Malta’s leading go-to service for food delivery and take-away orders. 

The site claims that within minutes, consumers are able to browse through take-away and delivery menus within their vicinity, place an order on the site itself – without having to jump to additional pages – customise the order and include any additional instructions before proceeding to the secure payment module.

Time to Eat effectively serves as a middleman, facilitating the process of viewing menus and available locations, at no extra cost to the consumer. It’s like those fabled concierges at distinct five-star hotels.

But the site’s success is indicative of a broader trend.

As more Maltese take to the internet for their purchases – using their smartphones to order not only food but also clothes, gifts, houseware, a taxi and even a date – more local businesses could stand to gain from gaining a foothold online.

A Malta Communications Authority survey showed that over 75% of the Maltese population were using the ’net regularly with 76.4% doing so only on their smartphones. 

And as the younger generations became more attuned to technology, it was not surprising to learn that over 98% of Maltese 16-24 year-olds go online regularly.

But that same study also revealed that 80% of digital buyers purchasing online, would be willing to buy from local websites “if the delivery offered was free and done in a timely manner”. 

The opportunity is there for the taking. Time to Eat is living proof of that.