Bolt Food South Africa expands into Johannesburg as it guns for rivals

SOUTH AFRICA – Bolt Food South Africa, the food delivery arm of ride-hailing firm Bolt, is eyeing expansion into Johannesburg as it readies to take on main competitors Uber Eats and Mr D Food.

The food delivery app, which launched in Cape Town during the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, says it has experienced 50% month-on-month growth in the past three months and is betting on competitive prices, as it eyes nationwide expansion.

The lockdown resulted in online shopping reaching a tipping point in 2020, growing by 66% from 2018, as more South Africans took to digital channels to do their shopping and this resulted in the introduction of new delivery services while existing ones expanded their business models to include the delivery of essential products.

During a virtual interview with ITWeb, James Townsend-Rose, country manager for Bolt Food South Africa, said the company will expand to Johannesburg in the third quarter of 2021, with plans to later set up a presence in Pretoria, followed by Durban.

“We already see huge growth in the industry and we believe there is plenty of room for growth. In the food delivery space, it’s always hard to find a good value proposition with the same restaurants and the same offerings as your competitors, and for us, it’s one of price and this speaks to the restaurant and customers. We offer the restaurant a very compelling commission, while our customers pay less for both the food and the delivery fees,” he explained.

Bolt Food South Africa currently has around 700 active restaurant partners and 2,500 courier partners in Cape Town, with these numbers increasing all the time, he added.

In its quest to have a stronger competitive advantage, Bolt Food says it is offering more value to customers, with delivery fees starting from R2 (US$0.14) within 3 kilometers of the restaurant that customers order from.

The food service says it also has introductory offers of up to three free deliveries for new customers.

Uber Eats has a delivery fee starting from R3 (US$0.21), while Mr D Food starts at R5 US$0.35).

The food prices also differ on the apps, depending on the commission agreements with restaurant partners.

“In the food delivery space it’s always hard to find a good value proposition with the same restaurants and the same offerings as your competitors, and for us it’s one of price and this speaks to the restaurant and customers”

James Townsend-Rose – Country Manager, Bolt Food South Africa

Job creation opportunity

In June 2021, Bolt Food partnered with Cape Town’s Pathway Cycles in an electric bicycle pilot that could see food delivery couriers boosting their income, reducing the service’s impact on the environment, and changing the way fleet owners work with delivery platforms.

Pathway Cycles owns a fleet of environmentally-friendly electric bicycles, each fitted with a Vizicube digital screen box that plays paid-for advertising. It then partners with couriers registered on the Bolt Food platform to deliver food items ordered via the service.

Competition in the local food delivery space has been increasing, with new players such as Dinnerbox, Delivery Lady, and MyChef entering the market.

However, Townsend-Rose believes competition is healthy for both the market and customers.

“We’d be silly not to take them [competitors] seriously, but we believe our value proposition is competitive enough, and the increasing competition is good for us and it’s good for the customer – it keeps us on our toes and we relish it. We already see huge growth in the industry and this presents a great opportunity for job creation and industry growth.”

Townsend-Rose said in the distant future, the company could add several new verticals.

“There are a lot of things that we are still developing; for example, we want customers to be able to book a delivery time rather than to order right now. We are also looking at other verticals outside of takeaway foods, such as adding a grocery, alcohol or pharmacy delivery vertical.

“There is huge growth burgeoning in the delivery industry that we can explore a lot more. But at the moment, our focus is on restaurant food.”

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