There is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our day-to-day life. In the pre-COVID era, dropping in to eat at a restaurant – sans face mask – was an acceptable and common occurrence at nearly any time of any day.

Now, people are asked to physically distance, and to avoid any unnecessary outings, which often includes forgoing a meal at local cafes, coffee shops and restaurants. However, the pandemic has also provided some with the opportunity to explore a new business model. Such is the case for Merritt Eats, which is now providing home delivery from local restaurants in Merritt.

“We originally began planning and building the infrastructure back in 2017,” said William Tsui, one of the co-founders of Merritt Eats.

“After seeing the success of Just Eat, SkipTheDishes, this was before UberEats entering Vancouver, we identified the unique opportunity in our town. At that time, another project called for us to regroup in Vancouver, we had to shelf the work then. Fast forward to the pandemic of 2020, we’re hunkering down here back home, there is no better time to take what we built in 2017 and get it ready for launch.”

Merritt Eats had their ‘soft launch’ in early June, and began to receive orders even before their systems were ready, now offering coupons to those who attempted to use the service only to receive a ‘we can’t take real orders at the time.

“We literally had people ‘knocking on our door’ to order food before our systems were ready,” said Tsui.

“The response has been incredible since, and our internal statistics and growth metrics matched up with the industry players at large, just on a smaller scale for our town.”

While some people in Merritt may not have used an app or website to order food in the past, Tsui believes that now is the perfect time for people to make a change over to online ordering and stay safe at home rather than going out to their favourite local eateries.

“Merritt Eats delivers speedy fresh meals straight from Merritt’s best restaurants in town, made to order from our web app,” Tsui explained.

“Even if you haven’t heard of UberEats or SkipTheDishes, chances are you’ve shopped online from the likes of Amazon. Same procedure, you simply pick the food, drinks, and dessert from the comprehensive menu of your favourite restaurants in town, add to cart, checkout with your address, pay online without handling cash or icky card machines during COVID-19.”

The process is streamlined, and in some cases, Tsui says it is even easier than ordering over the phone.

“No more repeating yourself on the phone five times just to get fries instead of rice,” Tsui joked.

The team behind Merritt Eats has local ties and tech industry experience that they believe can be an asset, even to a small town that has never previously had access to services such as UberEats or SkipTheDishes.

“We are several friends with Silicon Valley battle scars that are hiding out this pandemic, so we’re squarely focused to make this work,” Tsui said.

“It is our commitment to bring world-class technology to Merritt so we can have our town be the shining beacon beyond the province. We hope to get the entire town ready for the 2020s, in this post-pandemic world that is our new reality. People need to be brought closer together while being physically apart. I don’t like the term ‘social distancing’, I would much rather call it ‘physical distancing’.”

And with more businesses struggling in the face of COVID-19 related lockdowns, closed doors and loss of revenue, Merritt Eats provides an avenue for income for local restaurants while maintaining minimal contact. For those interested in other communities, Tsui said that they are also working on a franchising structure that would expand the service to other locations.

“With the challenging times for all brick and mortar businesses, especially for restaurants, we are here to connect everyone in town with the least amount of friction,” said Tsui.

“Our custom-built technology allows anybody with a simple smartphone to have fresh yummy food in the shortest amount of time and effort. Whether you’re a busy mom, stay at home worker, binge-watching Netflix or gaming, have a physical disability that restricts you from traveling, or just being lazy, we won’t tell. Connecting people is our ‘Why’ for operating our business.”


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