The three founders of the start-up, Dex Holman, Floris Visser and Roderick Schuller, all aged 24, were busy writing their master degree theses on the subjects of Financial Economics, Data Science and Tax Law at Erasmus University when the orders started pouring in. “We had the plan a while ago, but now we’re working on it full time,” says Holman. They now only work on their theses on the weekends and in the evenings.

Their idea was to create an app called OrderMe. “It allows you to place an order in a café or restaurant on your phone, meaning no waiter or waitress will have to come to your table to take your order,” says Holman. Things have begun to snowball for OrderMe now that cafés and restaurants have to adapt to social distancing regulations. “On average, we receive twenty requests for help per day. Sometimes we receive close to forty. We get orders from the entire country.”

Beer and 'bitterballen'

An example of what the QR code might look like.

So how does it work? “Every table will be provided with a QR sticker you can scan on your phone. A menu will then pop up on your phone, in which you can indicate what you wish to order. Your order can then be prepared. What is really great for cafés and restaurants is that the app allows for upselling too. Upselling means the app will make a suggestion for another product if you buy one particular product. For instance: beer is often served with bitterballen [round meat croquettes, a traditional Dutch café snack – ed.]. If you order one thing, the app will suggest you order the other as well.”

The idea was born from annoyance. One day, before the coronavirus outbreak, the three students (who met in a pub) were having some beers at a café’s outdoor seating area. “We were waiting a long time to be served, so we began brainstorming. That’s how we came up with this idea. I’d seen a similar app used in China when I was an exchange student there.” And so OrderMe was born. It was also designed to reduce the amount of work to be done by waiting staff, since there was a waiting staff shortage before the coronavirus crisis.

In the next few days, the start-up will focus on installing the app for all of its clients, so that they will be able to reopen their businesses on 1 June, when outdoor seating areas will be permitted to start operating again, provided they comply with social distancing regulations. “We can come and install the app in person, but we can also do it online.”

Room service

Most of their clients are restaurants and cafés, but they have also received a few requests from hotels – for instance to help out with room service orders. “If any companies on campus are interested, such as the Erasmus Pavilion or In de Smitse, we’ll be happy to talk to them!” says Holman, laughing. “We hope it will help hotels, restaurants and cafés in these extraordinary times.”