What’s Next – In conversation with Hymie Marnewick

Now more than ever, restaurant and fast-food outlets need to be able to provide fast and effective digital delivery services.

This is according to Hymie Marnewick, who recently spoke to Aki Anastasiou on MyBroadband’s What’s Next YouTube series about the challenges facing the restaurant industry and what it must do to ensure future growth and success.

Marnewick is managing director of XLink Communications, South Africa’s leading processor of card payment traffic and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vodacom.

He possesses more than twenty years’ experience within the IT and retail environment, including seven years’ experience developing IoT related products and services.

Quick-fix delivery services

Food delivery services exploded during the 2020 pandemic as walk-in traffic basically stopped overnight and has since only returned as a trickle.

This drop in retail from seated customers cannot be understated.

According to a June 2020 Morgan Stanley report, food outlets face many drastic changes.

This ranges from positives like market-share growth opportunities and an acceleration of digital transformation, to potentially more painful transitions in real estate and the shift to work-from-home.

The report added that even after a vaccine for COVID-19, customer patterns and behaviours may have likely shifted permanently, and food businesses need to adapt.

XLink’s data showed card swipes at food outlets dropped by 50%, making it among the worst-hit sectors.

A flurry of delivery services arrived to offer their support and connect the food sector with its customers. But that has come at a cost.

Prices have been marked up, hurting the margins of an already thrifty industry.

Many also brought technical demands with them, such as point-of-sale integration.

Even though restaurants can again reach their customers, they aren’t exactly winning.

FoodGuru – Putting businesses first

XLink sees opportunity in these trends, both towards the many restaurants that it processes payments for and to expand its own services in new and exciting ways.

The result is FoodGuru, a ground-breaking new platform which enables these capabilities for restaurants.

“FoodGuru was established with a business partner, Fastcomm, with years of experience in platform developments,” Marnewick explained.

“We found that after 16 years, we needed to start moving towards an online presence, as opposed to just the card transaction in-store.

“The development of FoodGuru was brought about by providing e-commerce and market place opportunities – for restaurants.”

FoodGuru was recently launched in South Africa, following a soft-launch period where it was tested and refined with the help of around 100 food retailers.

Not just another delivery service

XLink and Fastcomm paid close attention to the market and designed a platform that tackles numerous pain points caused by other delivery services, as well as the demands on restaurants to become more digital.

“Data dictates how you engage with your customer and how you market your customer,
Marnewick said.

“The current incumbents don’t share their data with the retailers and the restaurant owners.”

“We are very transparent in terms of the data analytics collected, helping them with one-to-one marketing.”

He added that it would be fantastic if, on a Friday, his local restaurant could WhatsApp him and confirm a meal order, or a customer giving feedback or requesting another pizza.

“It’s about getting to know the customer,” Marnewick stated.

Connecting restaurants and their clientele

This is the primary purpose of FoodGuru, wrapped in a digital platform experience that can extend into fulfilment and other retail tasks.

“It’s not just about online ordering. It is bringing a digital platform to retailers. And we believe we will be the fulfilment ecosystem,” Marnewick explained.

FoodGuru differentiates itself from other services in several ways:

  • Onboarding is seamless and quick – a business simply uploads its menus to the platform and sets parameters.
  • No point-of-sale integration required.
  • Comprehensive integration with different payment options.
  • Modular in nature – meaning companies can pick what services they want to activate and later scale out to any other module if they require it.
  • Customers just download the app to start ordering.

In other words, FoodGuru brings a tailored digital experience to all types of food businesses – restaurants, fast food outlets, and dark kitchens – without those companies needing to make expensive upgrades or cede crucial customer information to a service provider.

And, above all, the price is right.

“FoodGuru is very competitive in pricing. We’re giving the tools to the restaurant owner. We don’t want to eat their lunch. We want the consumer to eat the restaurant’s lunch!”

“We’ve seen the impact of COVID. Through the digital economy, we can drive down costs and report those costs over to the retailers,” he added.

Expansion coming

FoodGuru is set to expand further, bringing digital possibilities to all levels of the foodservice world.

As this sector claws its way back from the darkness of the pandemic, it must make every cent count, work on keeping current clients and attract new ones.

The uncertainties of stumbling economies and changing social behaviours could cause a perfect storm for businesses already under pressure from thin margins that require regular footfall.

Many food delivery services are not including these realities in their services or pricing, which is why FoodGuru is different.

Designed from the ground-up to put restaurants first, it will be the start of a digital wave across the industry.

“We’re saying: don’t just go to any Mister. Come to the Guru,” Marnewick advised.

The full interview with Hymie Marnewick is embedded below. You can see all What’s Next with Aki Anastasiou interviews here.

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What’s Next – In conversation with Hymie Marnewick