The hospitality industry is currently taking an unprecedented pummelling from the coronavirus. In the UK, restaurants, bars and cafes have been forced to close for the foreseeable future, and many workers are facing the prospect of losing their jobs – if they haven’t already.

Amidst this, many hospitality businesses are turning to the one option left to enable them to keep operating: takeaway. From silver service establishments to boutique cafes, a plethora of businesses that would have never previously considered offering delivery and collection services are now doing so, and in the process are adopting new platforms to facilitate the ordering and delivery process.

For the close-knit world of independent hospitality, established giants such as Deliveroo are often not appealing due to the requirements they place on businesses; the lack of integration they offer with existing websites and the level of commission they can sometimes demand. As a result, many of the new-to-takeaway companies are instead turning to a relative newcomer: Slerp.

Founded by JP Then, the founder of Crosstown Doughnuts, Slerp was rolled out for London businesses in 2019 after a two-year trial. Promising lower commission fees, greater control and the ability to either absorb delivery costs or pass them onto customers, it has proved increasingly popular with independent companies, particularly in the past few weeks.

“Over the past seven days we have seen a significant increase in inquiries coming in from a variety of businesses,” says JP Then, founder of Slerp, in an email to Verdict.

“These range from multi-site operators to local independents across all food and drink types.”

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Slerp: Supporting the hospitality industry’s coronavirus-led pivot to takeaway

For Slerp, the last week have been anything but relaxed, as the company scrambles to provide the support to hospitality companies entering the world of takeaway for the first time, while its own employees work from home.

But for Then, it has been an opportunity to help an industry that is struggling to survive in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

“We are working around the clock, seven days a week onboarding these businesses to our platform so they can keep a revenue stream coming in and an ability to retain as many as employees as possible and give them hope of survival,” he says.

“This is obviously an unprecedented situation and we are in a rare position where we can instantly assist and have someone set up with an online store within a day.

“We have waived all set up fees and will continue to react as fast as possible. This is about banding together and helping the sector as best as we can.”

Saving hospitality industry jobs

While much of Slerp’s operational time has been taken up by a surge in new customers, it has also worked to update its offering in a bid to save some of the jobs that have been lost within the hospitality industry.

This takes the form of a new option for delivery, in addition to the outsourced couriers that are currently used, where staff not required for takeaway services can be kept on to make deliveries instead.

“We are enabling our technology to allow for businesses to undertake deliveries themselves, or outsource to a third-party (which our technology automatically does),” explains Then.

“Many operators are signalling they have capacity to turn their idle staff into couriers in an attempt to save their jobs. This feature will be live this week.”

Providing hospitality safety during the coronavirus crisis

In addition to adjusting its offering to help safeguard hospitality industry jobs, Slerp has also rolled out measures to help protect its couriers from the coronavirus.

“We have enabled contactless delivery as an option, providing a custom note field for the end-customer on the checkout solution so that they can enter any delivery requirements,” says Then.

“This information is passed on to the courier. Ensuring safety for all involved is the top priority.”

Slerp has been rapid to pivot to respond to the changing state of hospitality during the coronavirus, and Then is open to the fact that the next few months remains relatively unknown.

“The landscape has shifted dramatically and extremely quickly. I don’t think anyone can speak with confidence to say how long this situation will last for,” he says.

“However, a need for offering online ordering will be essential.”

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