How Roll’d is Reinventing the Delivery Experience Amid COVID-19

Nov 10, 2020

As the pandemic forced us into takeaway and home delivery, Roll’d have reinvented their delivery systems for a profitable future.

Vietnamese food franchise Roll’d have carved out a special place in the marketplace – a relatively cheap and healthy “fast food” option. Business was going extremely well for the Melbourne startup that since 2012 had scaled from one small Melbourne CBD outlet to an impressive 86 stores around Australia, until the global pandemic hit.

Business was down 80% and staff were stood down, but for co-founder Bao Hoang the nationwide lockdown (and lengthy VIctoria lockdown) simply presented a new problem to be solved – how to get food to customers staying at home.

COVID-19 hit hard and fast

“The future of hospitality and foodservice comes down to three things: freshness, delivery and value,” Hoang tells Fine Food Australia.

After heading whisperings from international contacts, Hoang began preparing in February, but still faced an 80% downturn in revenue and temporarily stood down 800 staff.

“We initiated delivery services which is now from 2% of our business to 30%, it’s been a major growth business which is exciting,”

As the rising trend of delivery partners like UberEats, Deliveroo, Door Dash and others, Hoang saw great business potential in delivery, but with the pandemic was forced to pivot and bring his ideas to market much quicker.

“I’m happy to say we’ve come back to about 80% of normal (revenue) even though Victoria has gone through challenges, the rest of the country is doing well.”

After initially standing down staff, with the support of the JobKeeper program for some stores, Hoang has been able to grow their network and bring back 95 per cent of staff in the June-July period. Although the extended Victorian lockdown dropped this number slightly to 90 per cent of staff, other areas of the business have grown.

A new delivery experience

We pride ourselves on having a price point that allows consumers to eat 2-3 times a week, have something different each time and still not break the bank,” says Hoang.

With fresh, affordable, healthy options, delivery is booming for Roll’d outlets.

Part of the delivery success has been the implementation of a “Mr Whippy” style Roll’d Runner food truck. Similar to the ice cream trucks, the Roll’d Runner is a home delivery service that cooks your food fresh right outside your house.

The truck has been trialed in Brighton, and despite some early mechanical problems, Hoang describes the customer response as “phenomenal”.

“There’s a nostalgia about having the Mr Whippy van or ice cream truck but still getting great quality of food at home changes people’s perceptions, we haven’t really done any marketing aside from pr and influencers for the truck,” says Hoang.

A second Roll’d Runner will be rolled out in Camberwell, the location of a new store. An additional four vans are on backorder to be rolled out throughout Australia over the next three months.

Future is in delivery

Roll’d is also planning to introduce a “lunch order” system at offices that will use drivers to deliver fresh meals direct to the office. Eventually each Roll’d outlet will have 10 delivery drivers and a Roll’d Runner van.

Dubbed the Daily Roll’d Runs, customers can place orders up to two hours prior to delivery with no minimums and free delivery, all of which is set to make it an attractive proposition for those stuck at their desks making deadlines. The future of the office as we know it is unclear, but Hoang remains optimistic about trialling the venture in Melbourne in 2021.

Hoang is also looking towards incorporating drone delivery within his business in the next five years, and has been carefully watching the space as companies like Aussie startup Swoop Aero deliver medical supplies to the Congo.

Expansion mid pandemic

Despite an initial downturn, Roll’d is slated to open 18 additional stores across five states in the next nine months. The business plans to focus future expansions on more suburban areas. 

The bonus of expanding during a pandemic is an influx of quality jobseekers in the market, but Hoang has also seen opportunities from within his existing team.

“What we’ve had most success with and the proudest part of what I’ve been doing is I’ve seen a  lot of our store staff take on franchises and open stores. They’ve seen how we’ve reacted through this time,” he says. 

“Never waste a good crisis, says Churchill.”

Hoang says states that have reopened have seen a great bounce back for business, but he’s also aware of the many challenges faced by foodservice businesses and retailers in 2020. 

Remaining positive and optimistic for retaliatory consumption where consumers will be eager to spend up and spend out after months at home.

There’s now a bit of pent up energy in the market particularly in Vic but from a global condition too,” says Hoang.

As for Roll’d, the future’s looking bright – especially as Melbourne emerges from lockdown and hospitality has reopened.

“Vietnamese is such a huge opportunity. We’ve been reasonably successful in Australia in a tough food environment here vietnamese being naturally healthy lends itself to being successful internationally,” says Hoang.

We’re seeing opportunities and great people out in the market as well, that want to be joining our business, we’re being calculated but strategic.”


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