Every few weeks we like to bring you the story behind an app that everyone is talking about, and this time, it’s one that everyone’s eating as much as using. Hungryhouse is an iPhone app that lets you order a takeaway from wherever you are, and have it delivered straight to your door, no hoarding paper menus required.
You might have seen the guys behind Hungryhouse, Tony Charles and Shane Lake – they actually appeared on BBC TV show Dragons’ Den. It didn’t work out, but the Hungryhouse service has: based in Prague, the pair have built up the company to 35 people, and the service reaches across cities all over the UK.
The underlying technology took a long time to set up, CEO Tony Charles tells us. “We started designing everything back in 2003: we spent about three years designing and developing the business, all the technologies and the processes. We launched in south-west London in 2006, and since then it’s grown to about 35 people.” Many of the major cities in the UK are now supported.
The Hungryhouse iPhone app itself, launched in September, works in a similar way to the website: you simply peruse the menus of local takeaways, add your orders, entrees and mains to a basket, and order. The difference is of course that it can you use the phone’s GPS to work out where you are, no post codes required.
We’ve used the app with much success, but it has been criticised on the iTunes App Store by iPhone owners frustrated at the lack of support in their region. Charles is honest about this, and would rather take his time securing enough deals with local takeaways in an area before launching – and that takes time and elbow grease.
Hungryhouse sends sales people to the takeaways, Charles says, in order to make sure they can deliver top nosh every time. “We don't do any telesales, we approach them we go door to door…they do need to meet a certain minimum criteria.” Every order is actually checked and vetted – a Hungryhouse employee calls to see if the restaurant can take on the order, and if not, the branch is taken offline.
Charles is also something of a perfectionist when it comes to recreating the takeaway menu on a paper screen: he wants everything to be the same. “Our menus, we try to mirror the paper menus, and that's quite complex,” he says. “Because of that, we want the service online to be the same service offline. Because we have that attention to detail, it does take quite a while.”
That means other Hungryhouse apps may take a while – but they’re working on it, Charles assures us. “We're going as fast as we can, we're trying to bring in as many restaurants as possible…We know that we need to support Android so that's coming soon.”
Charles may not have won the dragons over entirely, but he’s now more sure of his vision than ever. “We just want to make people's lives just that little bit easier. I really think that the app is quite a significant development in the takeaway industry. It's quite remarkable that you can have thousands of menus in your pocket and they're all up to date.”
“We just want to try and keep innovating and keep making people's lives easier.”
What the critics say…
“It's brilliant if you're lost in a major conurbation and in desperate need of a lamb dhansak…Hungryhouse is a practical and useful little app to have tucked away on your iPhone.”
“The app is particularly user-friendly and gives a list of options for your meals; a nice touch is that you can nametag each item so that if you are splitting the bill, it calculates exactly who owes what. We had a divine Indian curry from The Zest of India that I am still picking at today, seeing as the portions were so generous and delicious. All in all, Hungryhouse seems like a bit of a winner!”
“The fact that you can add funds to an account for security and that all of the usual takeaway ordering hassle is removed make the app and associated service the perfect solution for anyone who fancies a takeaway meal from time to time. We could not find any fault with the way everything works and can see a big future for this service. The only problem will be ensuring that we don’t use it every day!”
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