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London Restaurant Delivery Alternative Big Night Raises £125,000 to Challenge Capital’s Juggernauts

Eater logo Eater 10/19/2020 James Hansen
several different types of food on a plate: The current restaurants on Big Night, clockwise from top left: The Camberwell Arms; Mangal 2; Luca; Royale; Legare; Levan; Two Lights; The Laughing Heart © Big Night The current restaurants on Big Night, clockwise from top left: The Camberwell Arms; Mangal 2; Luca; Royale; Legare; Levan; Two Lights; The Laughing Heart

Big Night, the restaurant delivery platform founded in lockdown by Hackney restaurant and cave The Laughing Heart, has raised £125,000 in crowdfunding for its stated mission to “transform restaurant delivery.”

Co-created by The Laughing Heart’s Charlie Mellor and product manager Pavel Baskakov, the platform started as an online shop for the restaurant during lockdown and has now evolved into a fully fledged delivery service, used by celebrated Turkish ocakbaşi Mangal 2; Shad Thames Italian restaurant Legare; revered neighbourhood pub The Camberwell Arms; and more. Its main appeal to restaurants is commission — running around 5 — 6.5 percent of an order where key competitors Deliveroo and Uber Eats might run as high as 35 percent. Big Night makes its money from those commissions; a £1 service fee; and a distance-rated delivery fee that, according to its crowdfunding page, comes to around £5 per customer. It also says that its training for delivery staff allows restaurants to in some way control the customer experience in the way that larger delivery apps cannot.

The challenge of such a model is that to grow it relies on higher order volume than its counterparts. That means its route to profitability is scale, either of available restaurants, orders from those restaurants, or both — which necessarily could lead to dilution of what is currently a tightly controlled, deliberately capped customer experience. Baskakov and Mellor say that the funds are largely to increase marketing spend — and bring more revenue to existing restaurants on the platform — and to build a platform more suitable to scaled up delivery. The company currently pays its delivery riders the London Living Wage, giving it another key point of difference to Deliveroo and Uber Eats, whose creation of a gig economy that preys on low-paid workers is well-documented.

Big Night joins a suite of London delivery competitors to the juggernauts of Deliveroo, Uber Eats, and Just Eat, whose grip on the market remains vice-like. Slerp and Supper — the latter of which crowdfunded £500,000 back in 2017 — are two of the more successful, while the perennially in beta Cook and Thief appears on the cusp of a genuine launch after raising over £1,000,000 of its own. Dominic Cools-Lartigue and Bejay Mulenga’s Great Feast, launched in June, is for now deliberately scaled back.

Big Night has also steered away from a key trap for Supper and recent arrival Cookout Club, in that it doesn’t attempt to suggest that largely Eurocentric, quality restaurant food is the apex of “fine” restaurant delivery, and therefore needs its own set of parameters, technologies, and additional investment to maintain its equally special integrity, while quality, intricate, complex dishes from other cultures can just be put in some Tupperware. Its point of difference is essentially branding: the idea that receiving food from Mangal 2, or Luca, or Legare is closer to being in the restaurant than it might otherwise be. Time will tell if this promise can be kept at scale.

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