Owners: Mark Calabro and Shannon Hautot
Location: Melbourne, Vic
Industry: Hospitality technology
HungryHungry launched in 2019 as a hospitality startup allowing people to order using an app, from their table, at a bar or restaurant.
When those venues were forced to close, the founders realised another feature they had built, but hardly used, could help keep hospitality alive.
The product allows restaurants to operate their own platform for takeaway and deliveries — even if they had never offered such a service before. Within six weeks, HungryHungry had 1,000 new clients, co-founder Mark Calabro says.
But, such rapid growth is not always a good thing.
The surge in demand put the tech under extreme pressure, ultimately leading to outages and a barrage of calls, emails and social media complaints.
“It was a devastating position to be in … we had the best of intentions, and as a result of the breakdowns our clients had their reputations on the line.”
The founders contacted affected clients personally, offering apologies and resolving the problems as they went.
“In times like these, there is little to do but own it.”
Since March, HungryHungry’s headcount has increased from 13 people to 57. It’s also back on track working closely with clients to find new ways to meet ever-changing customer needs.
COVID-19 created a perfect storm, bringing together innovation, survival and a customer-centric approach to business.
With digital check-ins now mandatory throughout most of Australia, and ordering through apps normalised, there’s room for more growth in 2021.
A fresh funding round is on the cards, as is expansion to the US and Europe.
But, if there’s one thing Calabro has learnt, it’s that it’s not always best to rush. Sometimes demand doesn’t slow down, and stopping to “make sure the ground is firm” doesn’t necessarily mean losing business.
Had the founders taken a pause, they may have prevented some of the growing pains they felt, Calabro suggests.
“Instead, it felt like we were constantly running on mud,” he adds.
“It meant a lot of late nights and brought the team close to burnout.”
But, it’s that same team that has driven HungryHungry’s success, by staying connected (virtually, of course) throughout.
“We have all been on this rollercoaster together,” Calabro says.
“There has been an inexplicable passion and drive in our team for our whole community to win … it has really shown the value in investing in our people.”