Tech companies often work with municipalities to improve infrastructure and the lives of inhabitants, but sometimes those platforms can do more than build smart city features.
Case in point is Ritual’s partnership with the City of Toronto to create the Food is King promotion. As the city began a controversial transit pilot that saw many vehicles diverted away from one of the busiest downtown strips, many argued the move would result in lost business for restaurants and retailers. The transit pilot had to run its course in order to see its full effectiveness, so the Toronto turned to another solution: tech.
Ritual—a Toronto-based food and beverage ordering platform—began a campaign with Toronto called Food is King to bring new customers to restaurants on King Street. The initiative gave new Ritual users $15 in credit to spend at a restaurant on King street they had not tried yet. New figures have been released that show the program was a massive success, signifying how governments can work with the tech community to overcome problems, no matter how niche they may be.
“The King Street Transit Pilot project has introduced improved transit service on one of our busiest routes with minimum impact on drivers,” said Toronto’s Mayor John Tory. “With the Food is King Ritual partnership, we have also made sure that the King Street pilot is driving business and new customers to our local establishments.”
New data from the promotion indicates that participating restaurants saw a 707 per cent increase in first-time Ritual customer visits during the first week of the campaign and an even-higher 1,062 per cent increase in week two. Close to 20,000 customers made their first purchase at a restaurant on King Street during the two weeks, which then resulted in 7,000 new Ritual users and seven new restaurants signing onto the platform.
Almost 30,000 more orders than usual were placed along King Street when compared to the weekly average three weeks before the promotion, leading to a $426,000 increase in sales. Merchants who took part in Food is King also reported a sustained sales increase through April, long after the promotion ended.
Techvibes spoke with Ray Reddy, Ritual’s founder and CEO, back in March when the promotion was in full-swing.
“The city wants to keep a pulse on what’s happening and they have a constant beat on what the tech leaders in the area are doing,” said Reddy. “We value that relationship because we think Toronto is very forward-thinking and we want to have a voice in that, so this promotion came up jointly in a conversation where we identified the challenge and said we can do this together.”
The City of Toronto invested $164,470 in the Food is King promotion, which was complemented by a $100,000 investment form Ritual. The ordering platform also contributed in-kind with merchandising materials, campaign promotions and support for customers and merchants.
Ritual has had a relationship with the city of Toronto ever since they began to sell ferry tickets on the app during the summer of 2016.
The promotion is a perfect example of how the city can come together with a local company to address a problem that ends up benefiting both parties. Ritual gained new merchants and users, while the public perception of the city’s transit pilot favourably grew before real data was accumulated and released to the public, indicating that the pilot has actually been successful. It also shows how government can be agule—when it needs to be, at least.
“Normally with most cities, it can be frustrating because the cycles can be very long, but what we appreciate about working with Toronto is that they can move like a tech company,” says Reddy. “We can talk about something and literally in days things can happen, which is unheard of.”
Reddy would know—Ritual has been growing exponentially after securing a $43.5 million funding round and is now a presence in several major cities across North America, including Boston and Chicago. The platform has also experimented beyond Toronto to highlight local eats, running promotions that offer “digital food festivals” and highlight the best that a city has to offer.