Year: 2011 - Present
web app, marketplace Industry: foodservice
"It’s a very modern machine that transmits pages over the telephone. It only takes eighteen minutes a page…" goes one of the many jokes about fax machines. But if you work in the foodservice industry, where food operators still fax their orders to distributors, it`s not funny. TradingTable, a startup whose two cofounders spent over two decades in the restaurant business, wanted to change this antiquated way of doing business. They approached New Haircut in 2011 to help them build an inventive online order management platform that would allow food operators, distributors and manufacturers to work together more efficiently.
Andreas Koutsoudakis and Gus Plaitis knew the foodservice industry well. Their families owned successful family diners in NY since the early 70s. It was apparent to them that even though the industry grew significantly, reaching one million food operators and 15,000 distributors, some things stayed the same. Food operators dealt with multiple distributors to achieve a good product selection and keep the price in check. They still used pen, paper and fax machines to place their orders. Distributors were at the mercy of their sales reps who spent most of their workday visiting accounts to collect orders and rarely took an interest in promoting new products to operators.
They formed TradingTable to develop solutions that would enable operators, distributors and manufacturers to spend less time troubleshooting and more time catering to their customers` needs. In an age where customers (who spent nearly half of their food dollars on meals outside the home) were the arbiters of success, the TradingTable platform was just what the industry needed.
There's no sugarcoating. It was a massive undertaking. Others have already tried and failed to innovate the largely-behind-the-scene $296 billion industry. Even AmazonFresh, the retail giant's grocery delivery arm, ran into a brick wall. So we got down to business.
Our starting point was market research. We wanted to understand the needs and behaviors of the three user groups the platform was going to serve. For this, we interviewed restaurant owners, distributors, and food manufacturers. What we learned was that the big distributors were reluctant to do business with TradingTable. Over the years, they had been pitched various digital solutions that were unconvincing. No dice. These distributors were key in helping TradingTable tip the scales.
The first order of business was proving the value of the platform for them and their customers. While New Haircut`s superpower is lean product development, this situation called for a different approach. We spent months working with our client to author business plans, interface agreement proposals and develop prototypes that would pique the interest of broadline distributor titans Sysco and Performance Food Groups.
Our strategy was to integrate over 500,000 food catalog products from the 1WS database. It was a bold move that mirrored the scale of our client's ambition. Next up, we built a minimally viable product (MVP) to test out the market. For this, we partnered with Driscoll Foods, a major regional distributor servicing nearly 2,000 restaurants in the NY and NJ area. We incorporated the learnings from this initial user testing to make the platform attractive for a wider range of distributors: big, small, specialtyfoods.
What started as a bare-bones functional platform that allowed operators, distributors and manufacturers to share information on products, pricing, services, orders and offers, grew over time. Sophisticated search filters were added to help operators discover new distributors. Analytics packages were integrated into the platform to collect user behavior data. But the biggest, baddest feature was a smart pricing engine, the first-and-only tool of its kind in the foodservice industry. The engine takes just seconds to figure out the “optimum order” for each operator. Powerful algorithms scour price offers and calculate the best possible order without sacrificing product preference, quality or service.
Since the platform caters to a community where many users are older and less tech-savvy, we aimed to keep the design intuitive. The aesthetic combines warm imagery and clean lines. It's universal enough that all user groups can relate. It's simple enough that it doesn't distract from the actual business. And of course, the design is fully responsive and works seamlessly on any device.
Changing user behavior that hasn't evolved in over 50 years was no easy feat. In order to convince all these different stakeholders that there was a better way to buy and sell in the foodservice industry, we had to jump through several hoops. We kept our eyes on the prize and used data to illustrate how TradingTable could be an invaluable tool. These were the biggest challenges we solved.
Vastly different food distributor ordering systems.
We worked to aggregate, scrub and normalize hundreds of thousands of inventory items across dozens of different systems. TradingTable became the only platform that connected to Sysco and U.S. Foods, the largest broadline distributors.
Distributors had operated for decades without sharing their pricing and shipping information with food operators.
We used data from our MVP user testing to prove that the lack of transparency was not working to their advantage. Our numbers showed that distributors who used the TradingTable platform saw an increase in new business from both existing and new customers.
High-volumes of customer service and inventory management.
We created a simple operator onboarding process that eliminated errors characteristic of offline, manual tasks. We also developed online ordering tools that remembered the operators` habits. These steps all-but-removed ordering accidents and trimmed the time that distributors spent managing their inventory by 80%.
When we began looking for a platform development partner, we didn't know exactly what we were looking for, but we did know trust would be a deciding factor for us. Ultimately, we chose New Haircut because they earned that trust before taking a dollar from us. Months of communication and conversation, back and forth, convinced us that they believed in us and our business. More importantly, they understood our business concept in a way that would allow them to provide the technological and overall strategic guidance and input we needed from such a partner. Smart, diligent and creative. Thanks for all you've done to help us make our vision come to life.
When TradingTable first approached us, they were just starting out. We helped them raise over $500K in seed funding and completed every aspect of the work: market research, business planning, branding, application architecture, UX/UI design and platform development. Today, TradingTable is the 1st industry-approved pricing engine. The platform supports over 500 restaurants and 25 distributors. These achievements were in large part possible because of the collaboration with New Haircut.
As the platform evolves and usage increases, we are working with TradingTable to leverage the purchasing behavior and platform usage data for advertising and big data analytics revenue. We are currently supporting their A round fundraising efforts that will be used for a trove of new feature releases, performance optimizations and the launch of their mobile apps.
larger orders than industry-average
food operators onboarded
average cost savings per order