DMS Lab funding helps Waterloo Region restaurants launch affordable food marketplace
Sociavore is an e-commerce platform for food and beverage businesses based out of Kitchener, Ontario. The company was founded in 2018 by Thusenth Dhavaloganathan and Amina Gilani to solve marketing problems they saw in restaurants operated by their extended family. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Sociavore saw an opportunity to help food and beverage businesses and applied to the DMS Lab program, which was created to build collaborations between technology companies and communities to pilot innovations that encourage transformational change along main street businesses. The problem they identified was the high costs delivery services charged restaurants. With that in mind, they set out to create WREats, a commission-less food marketplace for Waterloo Region, ON.
“The Digital Main Street Lab connects technology companies with locally-owned businesses to collaborate on innovations that lead to impactful digital transformation,” said Ahmed ElBedawy, Communitech’s Digital Main Street program director. “Sociavore shares in our belief that main street businesses are the heart of communities across Southwestern Ontario and we are honoured to support them as they work to develop technological support for the restaurant industry.”
“The DMS Lab funding was an integral piece for our team to build out the marketplace functionality. We believe that any community should have the ability to set up a sustainable online marketplace that they can easily manage and the funding allowed Sociavore to build this software,” said Gilani.
They were able to get 20 restaurants to participate in the pilot from a combination of existing customers and new customers. The restaurants only pay a low monthly fee to be on the marketplace, instead of the usual percentage off each transaction. Restaurants can also choose their preferred delivery options with a rate that best suits them.
Sociavore partnered with the Waterloo Regional Tourism Marketing Corporation to get the word out about WR Eats. “We had been encouraging our community to support local restaurants during the pandemic, but the cost of delivering was taking a big bite out of restaurant revenues. This solution not only helped restaurants set up their menus for online ordering, but saved them from the high cost of delivery which put more money direct to their bottom line.” Said Minto Schneider, who serves as Explore Waterloo Regions CEO.
In the first 8 weeks, the marketplace has had 694 unique visitors, $21,296 have been transacted directly on WREats, and they’ve had $234,000 in direct online orders to restaurants that joined or added online ordering through Sociavore because of WREats. This amounts to a savings of $70,000 compared to if a third party delivery service was used.
“We've had amazing reactions from businesses on WREats,” said Dhavaloganathan. “Restaurants have shared how great it's going from a sales point of view as restaurants are keeping full margin. From the guest standpoint, [they] can conveniently order on any device and love that they are supporting restaurants directly. We piloted it with the creation of WREats and now have other communities that are launching their own sustainable marketplaces.”
Sociavore plans to expand to Guelph, Kingston and Belleville in the coming months.
To learn more about Sociavore, please visit Sociavore.co.
Communitech was founded in 1997 by a group of entrepreneurs committed to making Waterloo Region a global innovation leader. At the time it was wild talk, but somehow this community managed to pull it off. Today, Communitech is a public-private innovation hub that supports a community of more than 1,400 companies — from startups to scale-ups to large global players. Communitech helps tech companies start, grow and succeed in three distinct ways.
- Communitech is a place – the centre of gravity for entrepreneurs and innovators. A clubhouse for building cool tech and great companies.
- Communitech delivers programs – helping companies at all stages with access to capital, customers and talent. We are here to help them grow and innovate.
- Communitech partners in building a world-leading ecosystem – making sure we have all the ingredients (and the brand) to help companies go from a small startup to a global giant.
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Yellow Pages and Lightspeed.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19 in Southern Ontario.