Chinese food tech startup Ele.me is known for delivering online restaurant takeouts in a fast and hot fashion, but in addition to just delivering restaurants orders, the company is also taking “restaurants” – sort of – closer to consumers, by putting more self-service snack bars in office buildings.
Dubbed Ele.me Now, the self-service snack bar unit of Ele.me reported a profit in its Shanghai unit against rivals’ shutdowns and mass layoffs. The meal delivery major plans to take more snack bars to more cities in China.
Ele.me Now puts those self-service snack bars in office buildings, selling snacks from fresh fruits, chips to chocolate to hungry office people nearby. According to its CEO CHEN Qi, most of the foods it sells are provided by agricultural products e-commerce platform Meicai, and delivered to office buildings by Ele.me’s logistics arm Fengniao.
Started in September 2017, Ele.me Now operates over 20k snack bars, serving over 10k companies. According to XIE Bo, an investor at QF Capital, the market for self-service snack bars in China is worth RMB 30 – 50 billion, there is huge potential for companies in the field to grow.
Self-service snack bar is part of the new retail trend that is currently raiding China, Ele.me Now’s competitors include Cheetah’s Bao Bian Li, JD.com’s Mini Supermarket, SF Express’s Fengyi Zushi, Miss Fresh and Guo Xiao Mei.
Locked up in a fierce competition, CHEN believes Ele.me Now has advantages over competitors as it can tap into the big data pool of its parent company to optimize merchants selection and to understand better its users.
CHEN also pointed out that the company also has an edge in profit margin. On one hand, it’s cooperating with suppliers including Meicai, Coca-Cola, and COFCO for better prices. On the other hand, leveraging on the logistics service provided by its parent company allows the company to further trim costs.
Self-service snack bars in office buildings is a good supplement to Ele.me’s food delivery service to satisfy immediate food intake needs.
Alibaba, Jack Ma’s e-commerce conglomerate, was rumored to fully acquire Ele.me.