Tech firm aims to make lunchtime more convenient

June 13, 2020 - 11:11

Before arriving at the restaurant, the 23-year-old woman ordered her lunch with Utop, an application which helps people order food for dining in before they arrive at the restaurant.

A man orders food on his phone with the Utop app. — Photo courtesy of Utop

By Minh Hương

HÀ NỘI — Hà Nội is often scorching hot at midday when Nguyễn Phương Hà is waiting for her lunch with her co-workers in a crowded restaurant.

Sitting in the heat for the usual wait of more than 20 minutes for her food would normally be unbearable, but now Hà can have food on her table in less than five minutes.

Before arriving at the restaurant, the 23-year-old woman ordered her lunch with Utop, an application which helps people order food for dining in before they arrive at the restaurant.

Hà works in crowded Cầu Giấy District, which is filled with office buildings where thousands of people go out for lunch at the same time.

"Time spent waiting for food could be more than 30 minutes somedays when the restaurants are too busy with customers at the same time.

"I have only more than an hour for lunch and a nap. Waiting that long for food really makes me tired in such hot weather," she told Việt Nam News.

As most of the diners are young office workers, lunchtime is also time for them to hangout.

Nguyễn Huy Hoàng, 33, who works for an IT company in the same area told Việt Nam News: “Having nice food and drink in a cool restaurant or café is something necessary for us.”

Like Hà, Hoàng and his friends have about one or two hours for lunch and don't want to waste time waiting for food in crowded canteens, food courts or restaurants.

“Ordering food to my place is nice but it costs more,” says Hà, adding, “I don’t like to spend as much on shipping fees as my meal and I still need to use a plastic container.”

Smart eating

The concerns of people like Ha and Hoang may be a thing of the past soon due to Phạm Nguyên Vũ, founder and CEO of Utop, a technology firm offering an online-to-offline (O2O) solution, combining traditional and online retail methods with digital technology. 

"A lot of O2O platforms offer home delivery but only few offer the in-home delivery solutions while demand for it is very high as most people still enjoy being served their meals in a traditional method," Vũ says.

The firm launched a smart menu in May, which the CEO says aims to be a solution to minimise waiting time for ordering food and drinks, adding that Việt Nam had avoided the risk of COVID-19 infections for a few weeks but its impact will continue.

“In this case, Utop’s smart menu will become a tool to protect consumers, limiting crowds and cash use, which are believed to worsen the situation,” he adds.

With the app, one can order food and drinks from a list of locations within a 5km radius, or users can scan a QR code on the table or the front desk at food courts and canteens to save time.

No cash is needed as they pay for everything with Utop points, which they can also use to buy other services connected with the firm.

As for businesses, the app gives them access to technological advances they don’t need to build themselves to attract customers.

With Utop’s technology, owners of restaurants and food courts can understand their customers’ behaviour on the online platform.

According to the CEO, restaurants will benefit from the firm’s promotional activities, adding: "It is difficult for small shops or food courts to have enough capital and personnel to develop technology solutions.”

Restaurants, cafes etc can use Utop for free and get access to AI, QR, e-wallet, analyse data and other advantaged technology, though Utop takes a percentage from every order placed on the app after the first three months of use.

After running the app for a week, Nguyễn Thị Huyền, owner of Coffee Huyền, said the app helped her reach and serve more customers especially who prefer technology.

"As soon as they order, information about their drink is on the POS (point of sale) screen. After several orders, I can identify who the customer is, a patron or a stranger, predict the time the customer will arrive and also their taste to better prepare drinks and serve them better.”

Established in HCM City a year ago, Utop has more than 200,000 users and more than 800 partner stores, restaurants, food courts and canteens in Hà Nội and HCM City.

According to Nguyễn Hải Tân, the firm’s chief marketing officer, its monthly active user growth rate is consistently above 40 per cent.

Believing that the smart menu will attract investors to the firm’s technology, Tân tells Việt Nam News: “We plan to build Utop as the leading O2O platform in Việt Nam.”— VNS