Patrick McDermott has pivoted to tech for his latest stocktaking tools targeting retailers and food-service businesses.
“We are all about reducing food waste, saving time and increasing profit margins for food and beverage businesses,” said Patrick McDermott, explaining what his start-up, DigiTally, is all about.
DigiTally is an app that gives food and beverage business owners a centralised real-time stocktaking system, which CEO and co-founder McDermott said “drastically cuts down time and resources spent on sloppy data entry”. Simply put, it’s “a radically simple stocktaking solution”.
DigiTally builds on McDermott’s prior venture, Stocktaking.ie, which provides more traditional stocktaking services to stores and supermarkets. He himself has more than 25 years’ experience in the food industry while co-founder Artur Leonowicz brings the tech experience.
“He’s the techie and I take care of the commercials,” McDermott explained. “So our working relationship has a very good dynamic.”
The duo founded DigiTally in 2016 and began investigating the viability of the service before landing their first customers in January 2018. “That time was crucial for laying down the groundwork,” said McDermott.
“We originally started with deli businesses in Ireland, but came to realise that the wider hospitality and contract catering sectors across the UK actually suffer from the same problems when it comes to managing food waste in each unit of their sometimes multi-site operations,” he added.
“This, ultimately, impacts their profitability, and that is why our product fits any commercial kitchen within growing food-serving businesses.”
‘DigiTally allows users to make faster and better decisions, which leads to a higher profit margin’
– PATRICK MCDERMOTT
Stocktaking typically involves scanning barcodes, noting things down manually, and then transferring that data to a spreadsheet. To minimise errors, DigiTally digitises the process from end to end.
“This means that they’re counting it very simply and far more accurately, making it quick and efficient for the site manager since there aren’t any double entries or updating of prices,” McDermott explained. “Previously, they had to have a different version of the spreadsheet every time the prices changed. With DigiTally, there’s just one price file stored in the cloud, and it’s centrally updated.”
DigiTally also generates real-time reports, which McDermott said customers have really appreciated. “These allow them to make faster and better decisions, which leads to a higher profit margin,” he said.
Early customers are also guiding the start-up on how it may grow in future. “Some of our food business clients sometimes ask if DigiTally can also take care of their recipes and temperature control. But we only deal with two problems and do that really well – better than anyone else. So we would consider creating links, integrations or partnerships with third-party software providers that already serve the hospitality and catering sectors, but solve a different problem to ours.”
Already, DigiTally integrates with other hospitality services such as point-of-sale, payments and ordering systems.
As far as McDermott is concerned, “Data is useless unless it can be converted into something that’s actionable – that’s when the magic happens.” And DigiTally is taking action on food waste through its tracking system.
“It’s very important that [retailers] know what’s been wasted, why it’s been wasted and who’s wasting it,” he said. “When they have all that information, they can then see how to address the problem and look at reducing it.”
‘Anyone who wants to work remotely and have flexibility around their work-life balance would find the tech start-up scene in Ireland very appealing’
– PATRICK MCDERMOTT
Headquartered in Tuam, Co Galway, DigiTally is currently running on a team of eight. “We’re expanding into the UK and are starting to make some traction,” said McDermott. “It’s a slow process as 24 out of the last 31 months, the majority of our customers have had limited opening times due to the pandemic … and there is now also the staffing crisis and the price increase.”
But McDermott sees it all as “slowly but surely” progressing. And he has been helped along by participating in the NDRC accelerator. “It helped me gain the knowledge I lacked as someone who was coming from a service background,” he said.
He was even somewhat surprised to find the start-up scene wasn’t what he expected. “The start-up scene in Ireland is very buoyant and attractive, and it did away with my idea of tech start-ups as a place for skinny jeans and bean bags in an office!” he said. “Apparently, the average age of a tech entrepreneur is 42, which was my age at the time.”
McDermott founded DigiTally with Leonowicz to enable the life that he wanted to have, and he can see why others are opting for a self-ploughed furrow.
“More people are turning to tech because that’s the way business is going. It’s about automation, creating value and having a business model that suits your lifestyle,” he said. “Anyone who wants to work remotely and have flexibility around their work-life balance would find the tech start-up scene in Ireland very appealing.”
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