As Toronto restaurants navigate the many challenges of switching to delivery/takeout models amid the COVID-19 closures, one Toronto restaurant owner is coming to the rescue with tech support. Nav Sangha, owner of Parkdale’s Miss Thing’s and co-owner of Otto’s Bierhalle and SoSo Food Club, is helping restaurants set up their own online ordering platforms for takeout and delivery.
In addition to his restaurants, Sangha has a tech business, called Ambassador, which offers an e-commerce element called Smart Cart. After leveraging the platform to set up ordering for his own restaurants, Sangha started reaching out to other Parkdale neighbourhood businesses and offering to help get them online. The solution, which he describes as “Shopify for restaurants,” allows customers to order from a restaurant’s menu and pay online in advance for pick-up or independent delivery.
He eventually created a post on Miss Thing’s Instagram account, making a blanket offer to create online ordering platforms, free of charge, for any small business in need. Dozens of restaurants have reached out since he made the post last week. “My inbox right now is pretty loaded,” says Sangha. Some, like Bloorcourt’s Little Sito, are already up and running with their new online ordering platforms.
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Sangha says that Ambassador has long had a mandate of empowering small businesses. “People are adapting, so I want to help facilitate that,” says Sangha. “I’ve got nothing but time right now,” he jokes.
Although Sangha agrees there are benefits to working with third-party delivery providers like Uber Eats and DoorDash, his online ordering platform allows restaurants to keep 100 per cent of the profits on their sales.
“We can create an ordering interface that looks really similar to delivery apps,” says Sangha. “People can even place orders right out of Facebook messenger or Instagram,” he adds. “I’m able to get them online in 12 to 24 hours.”
Sangha says that in addition to volunteering his team’s web development services, his partner hosting companies have agreed to waive their fees for the first three months, allowing restaurants to start accepting online orders for free.
Aside from offering a short term solution for restaurants coping with the COVID-19 crisis, Sangha hopes this online ordering platform can be the first step in helping restaurants reevaluate their business strategy during this challenging time.
“I see this as a time where a lot of business owners are going to be reflecting and looking for new strategies, not only to survive through the crisis but also to improve,” says Sangha. “Maybe this is an opportunity to adapt their businesses, take on new tools, and to reopen with potential new approaches to what could be a very different marketplace.”