“No man is an island” wrote Donne, hundreds of years ago.
He was, of course, writing about the daily office coffee run. Where no one order is truly of itself, and where the initial lone latte is joined by the cappuccino requested by the next cubicle over, and where Bill from accounting wants you to see if they have any of those crullers, and if so, here’s a fiver.
Okay, we’re just kidding about Donne, but not about the coffee run. It’s a ritual. Especially for Ritual, the social ordering app that launched nationally earlier this month, and which connects (corporate) users with their favorite local eateries.
When detailing the launch earlier this month, the company said that 1,600 restaurants in the U.S. and Toronto have signed onto the app, which uses mobile ordering and payment technology to enable people to join orders to be picked up or brought to their desks. The focus is on bringing coworkers together – digitally and then, of course, literally, gathered around the common experience of ordering food and then digging into it together.
The convergence of payments, local commerce and social networks was the overarching theme of the most recent Data Drivers. PYMNTS’ Karen Webster and Ritual founder Ray Reddy discussed the ways digital technology can bring consumers together with coffee shops and quick service restaurants (QSRs) in mutually beneficial ways, illustrated, as always, by some stats.
Data Point Number One: 70 Percent
This is the number of Americans who eat at a fast food restaurant or casual restaurant at least three times a week. Reddy told Webster that Ritual connects consumers on one side of the app with the best restaurants and shops in their neighborhood.
“You can send [restaurants] orders digitally that they can accept and fulfill and have them ready for pickup at their store," the executive said. That’s for an individual – but it's when the consumer has the option to confirm the company where she works that Ritual-specific rituals happen.
Coworkers, said Reddy, can get a notification when someone at the company is going to go grab coffee and, as he noted, “would you like anything? There’s the option to jump onto that order quickly so that it can all be put together.” Call it piggybacking, as Ritual does.
The infrastructure is that an order can be placed digitally and via mobile, but as Reddy said, “the magic is the social side of it,” where Ritual enables free peer-to-peer delivery. Food and drinks (and java, of course, to use our recurring example) are brought back without paying any delivery fee, combining both social ordering and delivery with a local mindset.
From the payments side of the equation, streamlining abounds, with the absence of the errant $2.40 thrown in by the coworker as the coffee run hero runs out the door (or worse, is not offered). "The elegance here is that when you are going to grab a coffee, as Reddy told Webster, "everyone orders and pays themselves, and the platform bundles it together as one order.” He noted that there is a rewards program in place, too, so that points accrue and act as incentive.
Data Point Two: 44 Percent
This is the percentage of employees who said they are very, or at least somewhat more, productive after taking a lunch break – as in a physical break, from work.
With the piggyback, said Reddy, there is also the opportunity to leave the office, get outside, take a walk, order ahead and then eat at an establishment. “We believe in giving time back to people,” he said. The 10 to 15 minutes of free time can then be spent interacting with colleagues or catching up on work.
People get to know each other, and Reddy stated that via piggybacking at “very large companies, [such as] very large banks, it actually causes people to meet each other who normally would not. You can hop onto anyone’s order.” This could mark the beginning of a social interaction sparked by a simple 10-second conversation when someone picks up coffee for a co-worker.
In response to Webster’s query as to how to prevent such orders from becoming too unwieldy, only three other people can hop onto your order (which dovetails with the slots on a coffee tray), and there are on average between 1.5 and two guests who join. Colleagues get 60 seconds to two minutes to hop onto an order, with an eye on keeping the process streamlined and fast.
Data Point Three: 64 Minutes
Talk about fast food. This is the USDA estimation about how much time Americans spend eating over the course of the day – across all main meals. Hardly a lot of time for chewing, much less socializing.
Reddy said that from the consumer’s perspective, people are just busy, especially so at work, and they are getting busier, with the fallout being that they will avoid eating at peak lunch hours because they do not want to waste 15 of those 64 minutes waiting in line. Ritual and its attendant social ordering, he said, gives at least some control over time, as they choose from where, and when, they want to eat.
Ah, but time management from the establishment’s perspective is another thing entirely. Reddy maintained that this is “a significant [business] opportunity and a big operational challenge for them." The Ritual experience can be new for coffee shops, for example, that now have to deal with both in-store customers and those who come by way of digital conduits.
“As you get to hundreds of orders a day, it causes you to stop and think about how fulfillment works,” Reddy told Webster, and certain efficiencies need to be added. Perhaps they take on a secondary espresso machine or additional prep kitchens. Yes, there may be additional expense and preparation – but on the flip side, some of these smaller businesses can see same-store sales jump by 30 percent, said Reddy.
For other mobile order-ahead to integrate with Ritual, “it’s not just about having an app, it’s actually about marketing it” and spurring adoption as they move local market by local market, noted Reddy.
The executive pointed out that Ritual does hold some competitive advantages over traditional food delivery models, where delivery charges can be onerous for consumers. Adding an $8 delivery fee doesn’t work for coffee. Because Ritual is not employing third-party delivery drivers, “our cost structure is significantly lower, and we pass those savings onto our partners," he noted. The consumer pays no delivery fees.
Along with social ordering, there’s the potential for the viral effect to blossom. One person’s favorite burrito shop or coffee bar may become a colleague’s favorite. “It’s an endorsement,” said Reddy of social ordering, as “we see a lot of people trying a new spot for the first time using social ordering and then revisiting that spot on [their] own. It’s a nice way to discover new places … to see what your teammates like.” Some companies have even gone so far as to endorse the service in their handbooks.
The QSR arena, he told Webster, will be a main focus for Ritual. The space is valued at $250 billion to $300 billion in the United States alone, and trillions globally. Reddy said that his firm is in several top cities in North America, with the overarching aim of “how do we take this thing that is working and take it internationally and faster? That’s the challenge for the next two or three years ahead.”