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Oddle up: how a digital platform helped save F&B in Singapore

Jonathan Lim, the co-founder of Oddle, talks about the rising popularity of delivery and the future of F&B

Nicole-Marie Ng
Written by
Nicole-Marie Ng
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I'm sure you made a food delivery order on Oddle during the circuit breaker. Almost every restaurant in Singapore seems to be on the platform. In fact, in just those couple of months, it grew from 1000 restaurants to about 1500 – providing everyone from hawker stalls to fine-dining establishments the online presence they desperately needed.

But you'd be surprised to learn that Oddle actually launched more than half a decade ago. Back then, Jonathan Lim was a budding restaurateur who operated The Lawn over at Biopolis Way. It opened in 2011 and continues to be a regular haunt for those working in the area, offering them healthy options for lunch with its wide range of salad bowls and wholesome meals. And as it continued to grow, the restaurant started getting more corporate orders.

"[Customers] would call, email, SMS or WhatsApp and the whole process was very manual," recalls Jonathan. "The final straw came when we had an order for $500 and the staff on duty didn't write down the customer's phone number or address. We only had his name. Thankfully, he called us an hour before the delivery was due so we managed to send him the food in the end. But that was too much excitement for me and I started looking at other delivery solutions in the market."

He launched Oddle in 2014 as a solution to his problems with two other business partners, Pua Yong Xiang and Alan Goh. "Because of my F&B (food and beverage) background, it was natural for me to understand operations," says Jonathan. "We always tell people we're an F&B solution by restaurateurs for restaurants."

But now that eateries have reopened across the city and people feel more confident to dine out, how will the delivery platform remain relevant? We chat with Jonathan to find out more.

A cut above the rest
Photograph: Bedrock Bar & Grill

A cut above the rest

There are many ways Oddle stands out in the overcrowded delivery platform market. For one, the company only takes a 10 percent commission on online sales, compared to the 35 percent charged by others. It also doesn't operate a fleet of riders, integrating with the likes of Lalamove or Comfort instead. But above all, it prides itself on providing its restaurants with proper service.

"Although you're still selling food, the mechanics are different," Jonathan explains. "Your dine-in menu will always start with appetisers but when it comes to online purchases, you should highlight your platters and bundles first. It's about achieving the least number of clicks to hit the minimum basket and check out – I learnt that by watching my wife online shop."

Oddle's team helps service their customers to help them with digital marketing and improving conversion. "Restaurants are competing in a space where consumers think that delivery cost is low," he says. "For example, if someone orders 10 burgers at $10 each and has to pay a $20 delivery fee, the customer will think of the $20 as an inefficient cost. However, if I blend the delivery cost into the food pricing and charge $11.50 per burger and $5 for delivery, that's more acceptable to customers."

Learning from the best
Photograph: La Nonna

Learning from the best

But how did Oddle come up with these strategies to help businesses succeed? Well, to Jonathan, it's about learning from the best – and that means his clients.

"If you look at our clients now, you'll see that a lot of them have come up with kit menus," he says. "Ippudo just came out with a special DIY set. It's about giving customers ways to add to the basket so that in one delivery, the restaurant can make better margins.

Beyond bundles, meal kits and group buys, Jonathan predicts that cloud kitchens will be another trend in the F&B industry. "I think we'll start to see interesting offerings from restaurants through virtual brands. They use the same kitchen but come up with different concepts. A lot of these restaurants use data on what's popular from their menus and tweak these offerings to give customers something new – like how the ilLido Group launched Grammi and Ebb & Flow has so many brands I've lost track."

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Helping businesses stay digitally relevant
Photograph: White Restaurant

Helping businesses stay digitally relevant

While Oddle is in the business of helping restaurants build an online presence, it's work has also ensured the survival of some of our favourite local brands.

When Covid struck, the third-generation owner of Swee Choon, a dim sum joint that has been around since 1962, was at a loss for what to do. The large operation has about 100 staff, many of whom stay with them for life.

"When Swee Choon first started selling its dim sum online, it sold each har gow by individual pieces," recalls Jonathan. "To hit the minimum order, customers have to click 70 times before checking out – they must really love dim sum for that level of dedication. What we did was create bundles of six, using past data points to find out what the most-ordered items are to create a family set. It becomes easy – with one click I can get food for 10 people and it's easy to check out."

"Thankfully we managed to help them turn things around," he continues. "The second-generation owner, the uncle, shook our hands and said: 'Thank you for saving Swee Choon – we've been around for 58 years and I thought we wouldn't see our 59th.'"

The future of delivery
Photograph: Odette

The future of delivery

"I never expected food delivery to make up 100 percent of restaurant sales. I've always seen delivery making up 20 percent of a restaurant's sales. Obviously Covid has changed the whole landscape," muses Jonathan. But the question is, now that life is slowly returning to normal, where does food delivery go from here?

"I think for Oddle, Grab Food, Deliveroo and Food Panda, we can coexist. For example, McDonald's and Grab Food are partners; McDelivery is the online brand but it uses Grab Food as the distribution channel. In the same way, Oddle is helping each restaurant build their online platform but they should still rely on distribution platforms to get more sales."

"Data collection is also very important," he continues. "When a customer transacts through Oddle, the data is shared with the restaurant and they have full ownership of it. We empower restaurants with the right tools and the right knowledge to build a sustainable business online."

And if all else fails, Jonathan has the perfect solution: bubble tea. "Bubble tea is the most sellable thing in Singapore – and I have the data to back it up."

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