Craver offers small businesses a solution to survive the pandemic
The company builds custom-branded mobile apps to keep orders coming in during unprecedented times.
The past few years brought the loss of many deep-rooted local restaurants, such as Bishop’s in Kitsilano and Campagnolo on Main Street. Those who remained to face closures, capacity restrictions, and staff shortages had to adapt, largely through food delivery apps. In 2020, 4.2 million more Canadians ordered food online at least once a week than before the pandemic. Although these apps can be great at bringing restaurants new customers, owners lose to hefty fees and commissions on every order – roughly 30 percent of every total, and even more if these new customers become regulars.
Enter Craver: a platform that allows outlets to create, customize, and launch a mobile app, enabling contactless ordering for small, quick-serve restaurants and cafes. Craver was built to meet the technology gap that these small businesses (defined as between one and fifty locations) experienced with their customers. Instead of losing the new-customer-to-regular-customer conversion to third-party apps, restaurants can use Craver to take ownership of frequent customers’ loyalty through their own custom-branded app. Craver charges a flat fee per location, rather than on a per-order basis.
Amin Yazdani, CEO and co-founder of Craver, ran a local software development company in 2017 before founding the business in 2018. At his former company, he was approached by Vancouver restaurants to tackle this technology gap by building an in-house mobile app that would enable contactless ordering. But it proved challenging and expensive: “The cost of building a bespoke app from the ground up was just too much for them. They could not really afford building that,” he tells Vancouver Tech Journal. Now, Craver supports these businesses through their custom-branded mobile applications, integrated with existing technology payment partners such as Square and Clover, as well as self-serve kiosks that have recently launched at restaurants in the United States.
Over the pandemic, the need for this technology only grew – evident from Craver’s 630 percent increase in clients across Canada and the United States in 2020, relative to 2019. “We were able to help [our clients] keep their customers safe, keep their staff safe, keep their doors open,” said Yazdani. He cites successful stories from cafes across the United States who reported the ability to stay open despite staff shortages, or increased staff wages thanks to better service.
This didn’t come without its own challenges, though. Not all businesses are fit for Craver, and Yazdani cites the pandemic as a double-edged sword. Although Craver’s client base grew, it had to temporarily pause charging those that were closing up shop and also lost a number of clients, too. The businesses that succeed with Craver are “brand oriented” and “lend themselves to repeat orders,” said Yazdani. “If you're ordering from someplace once a year, it doesn't lend itself to the type of tools that we build to create that engagement.”
For small businesses who do fit those criteria, Craver can be a particularly appealing option. “One of our customers is Railtown Cafe,” said Yazdani. “They have three locations in Vancouver – they can't get their hands on the technology that is available for the Starbucks of the world, or for those 100-location, 200-location multinational chains.”
The growth of Craver reflects greater trends in the Canadian food industry landscape towards adoption of technology. In 2021, Sylvain Charlebois, scientific director of the agri-food analytics lab at Dalhousie University, noted that the Canadian food industry committed to investing more than $12 billion to online platforms and convincing Canadians to make the shift to online ordering in the next five years. Yazdani said that “restaurants are usually late to the technology adoption lifecycle,” but the pandemic helped to accelerate that process. “A lot of people turned their focus to how technology can help with a situation […] Customers might have been more hesitant to download an app or go to an online ordering website to place an order, but they could now see that it's a way that they can keep themselves safe.”
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