Tom Dewhurst, Ordoo Tom Dewhurst, Ordoo

Tom Dewhurst, Ordoo

James Sandrini 22nd April 2018

What’s it really like to start a business in hospitality? We started an interview series to find out.

This week, we talked with Tom Dewhurst, founder of Ordoo, about the data void in hospitality, mass adoption of mobile ordering, and replacing cheap cider for craft pale ales.


You didn’t start your life in food & drink. What attracted you to the industry?

Eating and drinking out is a daily activity for many of us! And as an entrepreneur, it’s hard not to spot some of the problems and opportunities in our daily lives. The idea for Ordoo came from standing in a lunch queue while doing research for an Accenture report (my previous employer).

I was browsing information on digital payments and it was clear that mobile ordering and payment would be the future. If I could order from my smartphone then I wouldn’t have to queue!


It feels like mobile ordering and payment is hitting mass adoption. What do you think happens next?

I think we’re still a couple of years or so off from ‘mass adoption’.

My vision is that paper menus become obsolete for the quick service and casual dining sectors. We should be able to view the menus of our favourite venues, be notified when we’re near, then order and pay from our smartphones. I believe the early signs of this are already emerging, with big corporates pushing the technology and proving its value. Starbucks is already doing well over 10% of sales through mobile order and pay.

Also, McDonalds and Wetherspoons are hailing the technology to be a leading driver of incremental sales growth. When SMEs realise this is the future, I hope they join Ordoo on our journey. We can offer this technology at a fraction of the cost.


Obviously cutting ordering & queuing times has its advantages, but do you think we’re in danger of turning hospitality into a very ‘transactional’ industry with all this tech?

It depends on the tech.

At Ordoo we like to think technology can be used to enhance customer engagement through personalisation. Since customers have to visit the store, our tech prompts staff about their name, notes, and a brief order history. This way they can engage customers in person, with a smile and relevant information to hand.

This can also be taken online with personalised offers at the appropriate times, based on each customer’s previous behaviour. Hospitality will always be vital to success and companies must use relevant digital channels to create loyalty and avoid just being a product.

""Think about how much data Tesco or Asos has on their customers! They’ve been building this competitive advantage for years""

What else is happening in the industry, tech or otherwise, that excites you?

We’ve just partnered with a couple of smart Wifi providers and I’m simply blown away by the power of this technology. It’s incredible what they can do with location-based notification targeting when combined with an app. I’ve written in a bit more detail about it here but, essentially, it’s a technology that will change how venue owners engage with their customers.


Once there was Ordo, then Ordable, now Ordoo. Name aside, what’s changed in the business over the last few years?

We’ve been through a couple of name changes, Ordable sounded too much like Audible and was confusing; someone at an event actually thought I ran the Audible app until I corrected them.

Business-wise, we’ve been through our fair share of pivots. Initially, the business model was similar to a ‘Just Eat for coffee and lunch’, charging a 10-15% commission on sales. Last year, however, we realised that these purchases were habitual, and people weren’t using Ordoo to discover new places. So, we’ve moved to a subscription model and removed the commission element. We’ve also moved from Bristol to London and made some exciting new hires.


London vs. Bristol: Who has the best bars (and do you miss great cider?)

Well, I certainly don’t miss the bad cider (Frosty Jacks and the like). I’ve had too much of that in my time!

Bristol has a great nightlife and you can actually talk to friendly strangers in bars there, unlike London. This being said, I am still exploring the bar scene in London and getting very much into my craft pale ales! However, my guilty pleasure is The Angel, Wetherspoons opposite our office (mostly with the Ordoo team). Using their new mobile order and pay app, it’s just too easy to drink through their Brew Dog Punk IPA.


All this data collection. Do you think we need it all? Is it all being actioned? And do you see signs of data paralysis in some of the businesses you deal with?

In general, I am trusting of companies with my personal data. If they can make my life more convenient by remembering my preferences, then it’s worth it for me. I believe this is the case with millennials and the younger generations, most of whom are used to logging in using Facebook and allowing their personal data to be captured.

The food and drink businesses we deal with are the opposite. I strongly feel there is a data void in hospitality and owners have no idea who their customers are, what they’re ordering and which channels to engage with them. They are years behind the digitalisation of other industries, such as retail. Think about how much data Tesco or Asos has on their customers! They’ve been building this competitive advantage for years.

To keep up, McDonalds and Starbucks are pushing digitalisation programmes extremely hard this year.


At a time when consumers are obviously pushing back against data capture and storage – plus all things GDPR – what do you think tech companies need to do to earn people’s trust?

It’s now up to the company to disclose what data they capture, the use of said data and the legal basis. Plus, customers can request the movement or deletion of their personal data and be more in control of marketing communications. This means all tech companies with personal data will need to be transparent with their data dealings and prove they’re not abusing it.

It’s always a fine line. As long as you’re trying to add value with any data usage or communication, then hopefully customers will recognise this. Integrity will decide the winners and losers and I hope Ordoo can lead the way on this.

Thanks to Tom Dewhurst.

To find out more about how to help customers beat the queue with Ordoo, visit their website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.