Grabb expands Toronto restaurant dining rooms to your smartphone

If the Grabb takeout food app had existed two decades ago, Jerry, George, and Elaine just might have escaped the wrath of the Soup Nazi altogether.

The Seinfeld gang could have preordered and prepaid for the soup using their smartphones or tablets from the comfort (or Kramer-induced chaos) of Jerry’s apartment. They could have used Grabb to check the status of their order, track their spot in a virtual lineup and see the location, distance and approximate walking time to the soup stand on a digitally generated map.

Once the restaurant sent them a push notification that their order was almost ready, they could have picked up their mulligatawny… and then left. They wouldn’t have waited in a lineup stretching around the block. George wouldn’t have fumbled for cash in his overstuffed wallet. A virtual receipt would’ve been emailed to them. And none of them would have endured the legendary insult, “No soup for you!”

While long takeout lineups were hilarious sitcom fodder back in the ’90s, many of today’s urban professionals see waiting for anything as a needless waste of time. The current appetite for quick-and-convenient is exactly what Toronto-based startup Grabb Mobile Inc. is catering to with its Grabb app.

Grabb mobile app payment process
Ordering food with Grabb is as simple is choosing a restaurant, choosing your food, and then waiting your turn to pick it up.

“The one thing the restaurant owners don’t have control of is the lineup. So Grabb is kind of the final piece to offering the best (takeout) customer experience,” said Kabir Daswani, founder and CEO of Grabb Mobile.

The app can be used on Android and iOS devices to order takeout (no deliveries or dining in) from 26 eateries located in Toronto’s financial district, King Street West and Queen Street West areas. Participating restaurants include Hero Certified Burger, What A Bagel and The Chickery. Grabb Mobile hopes to expand the service outside of Toronto and has already “had interest from other restaurants in other cities,” Daswani said.

Although restaurant customers can download the app for free, they pay a four per cent convenience fee on every takeout order they place via Grabb. Daswani noted the charge has been lowered from its original rate of seven per cent and usually works out to about 40 to 60 cents per individual takeout order.

There’s no initial fee for restaurants to sign up with Grabb and in terms of hardware “all they need is an iPad,” Daswani said. Once a restaurant’s takeout menu is added to the Grabb app system (a process that can be done completely remotely), the eatery can start accepting takeout orders about 20 minutes later, he said.

The only costs for restaurants are the normal credit card processing fees when app users pay for their orders. Daswani said restaurants can also opt into “some nice add-ons that can be about $40 to $80 per month,” such as being featured on Grabb’s social media channels.

More than 5,000 hungry, impatient Torontonians have downloaded the Grabb app so far. Competition in Canada’s mobile food ordering space is heating up with other apps such as Hangry and JustEat already available and Starbucks set to offer mobile order-and-pickup service later this year.

Daswani hopes two unique features will help Grabb take a bite out of its competition: a very selective approach to partnering with restaurants based on their location and suitability for takeout orders, and the virtual lineup that shows users how far they are from the front of the takeout queue.

“You can actually see yourself move up in real time in relation to other customers,” he said.

Besides giving restaurants a way to differentiate themselves in Toronto’s competitive food market, Grabb also provides them with valuable business metrics, Daswani said.

“We can provide them with pretty detailed data in terms of peak (demand) times, what’s selling out and what customers like to order the most, to maximize and tweak their inventory.”

There’s certainly room for growth in the space. A 2014 survey by AYTM Market research found that only four per cent of U.S. consumers reported “regularly” ordering food via mobile apps compared with 32 per cent who reported ordering it online.

Using mobile technology to skip lineups and cut waiting time can obviously be applied to similar venues from medical clinics to car repair shops. It’s a thought that has already crossed Daswani’s mind.

“Right now we’re focusing on the food market in Toronto but there’s quite a few verticals we can tackle later on,” he said.

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Christine Wong
Christine Wong
Christine Wong has been an on-air reporter for a national daily show on Rogers TV and at High Tech TV, a weekly news magazine on CTV's Ottawa affiliate. She was also an associate producer at Report On Business Television (now called BNN) and CBC's The Hour With George Stroumboulopoulos. As an associate producer at Slice TV, she helped launch two national daily talk shows, The Mom Show and Three Takes. Recently, she was a Staff Writer at and is now a freelance contributor.

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