Unify Ordering is simplifying the ordering process between buyers and suppliers

A few years ago, Barry McNerney and Louis Williams had an idea for a new business. What if we created an app for buyers and suppliers that could replace the traditional method of ordering by phone or voicemail? And what if that mobile-friendly platform could save restaurateurs time and money and reduce their paperwork? The idea sounded too good to be true. “When we began our research, we were sure that someone else would have had the idea before us, but no. Any other platform we’ve come across requires two-way integration, but all that’s required with Unify Ordering is an email address. Suppliers don’t even need to be signed onto the app. It really couldn’t be simpler,” said CEO and founder Barry McNerney.

The challenges associated with ordering from wholesale suppliers sparked the idea for Unify Ordering. Barry owns Juniors Café & Deli, Paulies Pizza and Lotts & Co while Louis is Partner and Head of Operations at Two Fifty Square Coffee Roasters. “We’ve both experienced the pain of sending orders to wholesale suppliers and the lack of information around the process. In a café or restaurant, orders are generally written into a book and called into a wholesale supplier at the end of the day, usually left on an answering machine. There’s no information for the business in relation to that purchasing in real time, no traceability or accountability.”

From the supplier’s side, this antiquated system of ordering can also create problems. “They’re listening to hundreds of voicemails, getting text messages or even pictures of written lists sent to them. Quite often, they have to send people in early in the morning to listen to voicemails, transcribe them and put them into their internal system. Somebody from Poland could be transcribing an order from a Brazilian working in a restaurant; communication breakdowns often happen or people aren’t specific enough.”

Barry and Louis partnered up with software developer Paul Lawless to create a digital solution for ordering, specifically from the way chefs make their orders as opposed to building it from a tech perspective. Suppliers list their products and respond to and record orders coming in. They can also communicate special offers and new products to customers. “The cost of ordering is reduced by about 90% and we’re helping suppliers to increase their sales and reduce their carbon footprint by eliminating physical product brochures. It’s a complete win for buyers and for suppliers.” This new tech-driven method of ordering is also helping to create a network, says Barry. “It’s a new way for buyers and suppliers to meet and start doing business. It’s absolutely snowballing at the moment and going from strength to strength.”

Over 2000 restaurants, cafes and food purchasers use Unify Ordering every day. With outdoor dining resuming, orders have gone up by 100%. “Last night, we did over 1,700 orders – that’s worth close to €300,000 just for one day. It’s a great Irish story and even globally, there aren’t many companies doing what we’re doing.” Although some suppliers have created and implemented their own platform, that can bring its own set of problems, says Barry. “My chef or manager isn’t going to sit down at the end of the day and open 10 different applications to order from 10 different suppliers. Why would I want them to spread their orders over those 10 apps? That would mean all that info relating to my purchasing is spread over those 10 different platforms. I want to have all my information warehoused in one place so I can make informed decisions.”

Last October, the company received funding which has allowed it to grow from three members of staff to 15. Another five people will be taken on before year end and it’s expected expansion into the UK will follow in early 2022. “Last March we were going along nicely and then our market got completely wiped out overnight. Thankfully we saw a lot of the traffic coming back up and by June, we were back up to where we were at the start of March. We’re reliant on the food and drink industry and thankfully it has shown its resilience over the last 12 months. As the market opens back up and confidence starts to come back into the market, we’ll rise on that tide as well.”

Technology has proved its worth throughout the pandemic, says Barry. “One lesson we’ve learned is that we’re going to have to use technology whether we like it or not in order to remain efficient and competitive. We have a really robust product that’s going to help buyers and suppliers in that space.”