A few years ago, SkipTheDishes was a small technology startup with just a handful of restaurant partners. Today, the distinctly Canadian company partners with more than 14,000 restaurants across 115 markets coast to coast to coast.
Led by a handful of young professionals, who left traditional careers to build a dream, SkipTheDishes was founded in 2012 by brothers Chris and Josh Simair in Saskatoon. Jeff Adamson joined in late 2012, followed by a university friend, Andrew Chau in 2014. Chris and Josh’s brother Dan completed the team.
“Our early teams set out to create a better way for customers to gain extra time in their day by ordering restaurant meals for delivery and a new way for restaurants to reach and serve more customers,” says Adamson, Chief Restaurant Officer and co-founder of SkipTheDishes. “After explosive growth in our first few months, it was clear there was a strong demand for delivery from both customers and restaurants.”
In 2013, SkipTheDishes established its Winnipeg headquarters and today boasts additional offices in Toronto, Saskatoon and Calgary. “The workforce has quadrupled over the past 18 months and we continue to add roles in software development and DevOps, restaurant-partnership success, customer care and marketing” says Adamson, adding the company now employs close to 2,000 people in its Winnipeg office alone.
While SkipTheDishes is uniquely Canadian in its brand identity, it’s also part of the U.K.-based Just Eat Global Group — an international leader in the food-delivery industry. SkipTheDishes was acquired by Just Eat in 2016, opening the door for the brand to empower innovation on a global scale. Last year, SkipTheDishes experienced incredible 264-per-cent year-on-year growth and was honoured as one of Deloitte’s Technology Fast-50 award winners, ranking fifth and reporting 10,969.6 per cent revenue growth from 2013 through 2016.
In 2018, the company significantly expanded its workforce, as well as community and national partnerships. “We launched restaurant partnerships with Tim Hortons and McDonald’s, as well as adding many local and independent restaurants offering menu selections from diverse cultures,” says Adamson. SkipTheDishes also recently expanded into Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and P.E.I.
“Our teams have adapted and enhanced Skip’s technologies with many new features to improve overall customer, restaurant and courier experiences on our delivery and logistics platform. Skip has launched into dozens of new markets and we’re now processing millions of delivery orders for hundreds of thousands of Canadians,” he says.
“But,” Adamson cautions, “as we roll out new technology, we have to be constantly mindful of the diverse types of restaurants we work with, while simultaneously making sure we’re also improving the experience for our customers and couriers.”
This strategic approach to growth has allowed SkipTheDishes to make delivery an option for people from all walks of life, providing customers in cities of all sizes with countless new options. “By enabling customers to order food from more restaurants, we’ve allowed them to spend more time on the things they love,” says Adamson.
On the restaurant side, he says SkipTheDishes has added “meaningful income to incredibly hardworking restaurateurs by enabling them to reach customers outside their four walls, while remaining focused on their dine-in.” For many owners, this additional revenue enables them to hire managers, renovate or open additional locations.
According to Robert Carter, industry analyst, Foodservice at Toronto-based NPD Group, SkipTheDishes has altered the Canadian foodservice landscape by introducing a turnkey solution to a new distribution channel. “Similar to the omni-channel discussions in the retail space a few years ago, [SkipTheDishes] has done a good job of offering up a simple solution for operators to tap into this online channel. Sales through the digital door bring in $1.8 billion annually and it’s growing at a double-digit rate — Skip has helped facilitate that growth by making it easily accessible.”
He says the company has also allowed independent restaurants to compete on a level playing field with some of the larger players by offering a solution for small operators who just couldn’t afford to make the technology investment. “In fact, we’ve seen a bit of a slowdown in [independent] unit closures at the same time that more consumers are going to Skip-type platforms — there’s almost a direct correlation there.”
But, the success of SkipTheDishes didn’t come without its challenges as the young brand made its foray into relatively uncharted territory for the Canadian restaurant landscape. For Adamson, a three-pronged business philosophy was key to growing the brand.
First, he says you have to take risks and trust your team. “In the early days of Skip, there wasn’t any off-the-shelf business model we could replicate. No one had done what we were setting out to do,” he recalls. “We had to be very humble, acknowledging there was a lot we didn’t know and having the heart to move forward knowing we were going to stumble. If you have great people you can trust, they will rise to the challenge.”
Next, he says, you need to trust your intuition, but change your opinion frequently. “What customers want is usually simple: great food, great experiences, value and more time to do what they love. We find success by balancing the vast number of ways to go about achieving these goals — this is what Skip is about.”
Finally, he says you have to recruit, retain and train the best people possible, as quickly as possible. “Skip is lucky to have great people who are incredibly down-to-earth and hard working. They talk and work as if they have everything to prove. Find these people, give them ownership and remove barriers to their growth.”
The company hires locally whenever possible but has also brought in talent from Brazil, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
And, as the company grew, Adamson says his leadership style had to grow with it. “What was needed from me when we didn’t have many employees, to when we had 100, 1,000 and now close to 2,000, is always changing. I’ve had to change as the needs of the company continue expanding and changing,” he says. “A leader at Skip must be adaptable within our rapidly-changing environment but the one thing that can’t change is integrity. This is the foundation of any strong relationship and business and without it, people can’t thrive. If your people can’t thrive, your business can’t, either.”
This philosophy of integrity goes beyond the business itself and into the communities SkipTheDishes serves. Locally and nationally, the company is expanding its public engagement through exciting community and national partnerships.
“Skip teams participate in, and sponsor, countless events across the country, aligning with Canadians’ passion for diversity, sport, healthy living and innovation. Recently, we partnered with six NHL teams across the country, bringing together Canadians’ passion for hockey and food,” says Adamson.
Earlier this year, SkipTheDishes received a Manitoba Start: Employer Partner of the Year award. Manitoba Start connects businesses to a world-class workforce and is the leading provider of career-development services for newcomers to the province. The award recognizes local businesses that access Manitoba Start’s resources to strategically build a corporate culture of diversity and inclusion.
With the delivery channel continuing to grow its share of restaurant sales, Carter says the future is bright for SkipTheDishes. “As operators become more aware of the digital-door channel and what it means for their business, we’ll see platforms like Skip continue to evolve and grow.”
But, more importantly, Carter says the company has helped operators understand how to effectively use the delivery channel and how to put the proper resources towards it. “Through strategies such as Skip Scores, [the company is helping] operators identify and capitalize on growth opportunities through the delivery channel.”
Today, Adamson says SkipTheDishes is “focused on expanding into more markets across the country and making Skip a household name across Canada. My team, in particular, has been working to bring even more local, independent and national partners to the network. On the technology side, we’re focused on enhancing our restaurant experience through innovations such as POS integration and deep-data insights to enable restaurateurs to execute even better.”