Flipdish wants to deliver digital solutions to Irish restaurants

30 Mar 2020

From left: Conor and James McCarthy. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Our Start-up of the Week is Flipdish, a Dublin software company that provides restaurants and takeaways with digital ordering solutions.

Flipdish was founded in 2015 by brothers Conor and James McCarthy. The siblings wanted to help independent eateries take control of their digital business, so they developed a platform that enables companies to build their brands, increase customer loyalty and increase online sales.

Conor McCarthy, who is CEO of the company, said the Dublin-based start-up now works with quick service restaurants (QSRs), such as fast-food outlets, takeaways and cafés, all around the country.

“Our product offers high performance, reliability and efficiency for restaurants and takeaways that want to grow fast,” he told Siliconrepublic.com. “Last year, we expanded our product offering to include self-service kiosks, which are the first widely available kiosk solution for QSRs in Ireland.”

The market

So far, Flipdish’s technology has been adopted by a number of multi-location chains and franchises, such as Base Pizza, Bombay Pantry, Chopped, Café Sol and Romayo’s.

“We also work with lots of smaller, independent restaurants and takeaways who need our digital ordering technology to build their brand, grow revenue and drive customer loyalty,” McCarthy said.

“When James and I founded Flipdish in 2015, we originally set out to build a takeaway marketplace but quickly realised that the restaurant industry was being negatively affected by food delivery marketplaces. We decided instead to work on giving restaurants the tools to compete and thrive online and build up their direct ordering volume.”

McCarthy said that with the rise of food delivery marketplaces, many restaurants now have to pay commission fees of up to 30pc to some providers. He also suggested that ordering online is damaging the relationship between QSRs and customers, by removing the direct interaction between the two parties.

Instead, Flipdish has set its focus on bringing self-service kiosks to more restaurant chains in Ireland, with McCarthy estimating that there’s around 3,000 QSRs around the country that could avail of the technology.

The team

McCarthy has a background in electronic engineering and software development, and prior to setting up Flipdish, he began his first online business while he was in college. It was a poker data-mining service called HandHQ.

“Between 2007 and 2010, HandHQ became the leading provider of poker hand histories online, providing a database of over hands to tens of thousands of players,” he said. “In 2010, I also co-founded Switch Poker, a real money online poker site compatible with iPhones and iPads. Switch Poker went on to sign up over 100,000 players.

“My brother James, who is COO of Flipdish, trained as an architect but turned to entrepreneurship early. Before starting Flipdish, he founded ChristmasShirts.com, an e-commerce business which operated in over 40 countries.”

The technology

When asked about the technology behind Flipdish, McCarthy joked: “Where to start?

“We have a monolith codebase for our main service and API called Zeus. Zeus runs on six separate server clusters, for a total of about 20 servers. Each cluster runs the same codebase but handles different tasks. Zeus is written in C# and runs on Azure,” he explained.

“We have a proxy in front of this, which does sweet magic in funnelling requests to various places and serving up SSL certificates for the thousands of websites that we host. Using a proxy like this means we can serve content that is generated by different servers from the same domain or hostname.”

McCarthy added that Flipdish has a number of client apps. This includes consumer apps, which people use to order food, as well as the company’s kiosk app and terminal app, which restaurants use to receive and print orders.

“Other than the apps which we created and maintain, there are a host of apps and services that third parties have built that interact with our API. These are often applications that receive orders into POS terminals or other services which, for example, notify a delivery company to dispatch a driver when an order is placed.”

The future of Flipdish

McCarthy said that it was challenging to launch Flipdish back in 2015. “At the beginning, we found it hard to get customers to believe in us. We were unproven and therefore a risky choice in their eyes, but we were very confident that our product and approach would deliver significant ROI,” he explained.

“We are very thankful to early adopters like Bombay Pantry who believed in us, and we are proud to still be working with our early customers.”

Now, McCarthy said that Flipdish has 2,000 customers in 14 countries, and is looking to help more takeaways, cafés and QSRs to “thrive online”.

“In 2019, Flipdish delivery orders covered 1,146,575km. That’s the same distance as going to the moon, back to Earth and returning to the moon again.

“We want to have a service and product so good at what it does, that it’s a no-brainer for business owners to use Flipdish, while having the brand awareness to ensure relevant businesses know we exist. Crucially, we want to do this while sticking to our principles and values.”

In 2018, Flipdish raised €4.8m in a Series A round to fund these expansion plans. When asked about further investment, McCarthy said that it’s not a huge priority right now, but the team is trying to do business in a way that would be attractive to investors.

“We maintain a high level of growth and are building a team that will get the company to the next level, in terms of product, customer base and revenue,” he added. “You don’t kill yourself training for 10 years to play for Manchester United because you want to attract girls, but when you’re playing well, they’re attracted!”

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic