Amanda Roche-Kelly, MD, Just Eat Ireland

13th July 2020

This week Amanda Roche-Kelly, MD of Just Eat Ireland and WMB Diversity Ambassador talks about the need for positive role models and the importance of leading with compassion.

Please describe your role at Just Eat.

At the moment, I would describe it as ‘all-hands-on-deck!’ As Managing Director my role has always been the oversight of all aspects of the business from finance to sales, but the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the roles of managers at all levels across all sectors of business globally.

The dramatic acceleration of the crisis definitely made it more difficult to navigate for everyone with my top priorities to protect my team, our customers, our restaurant partners and of course the couriers we work with.

The traditional restaurant sector has been decimated by this health crisis, with the immediate focus of my role to ensure the efficient continuity of the business; working with my leadership team to move the organisation to a work from home workforce and doing everything in our power to keep the doors of local and independent restaurants open during these unprecedented times.

Can you put into context, the size and scope of Just Eat for our readers?

When Just Eat launched here in Ireland first in 2008 we had 219 fantastic restaurant partners. Through investment and innovation, we now offer customers right across Ireland the choice of 40 different cuisine types from over 2,500 quality eateries for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  New and existing restaurants are also now offering an extensive wine and cocktail menu as well as DIY meal kits, expanding the range of choice available for delivery contact-free straight to your door.

More than 80% of our customers order either via the app or on mobile device with the Just Eat app downloaded over 2 million times since it was launched in Ireland five years ago. As Just Eat we are the world’s largest food delivery company outside of China, connecting restaurant partners with customers in 22 countries.

As a WMB Magazine Diversity Ambassador, how important is it to have role models?

As Marian Wright Edelman was famously quoted as saying, “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.” The pandemic has perhaps laid bare the inequalities in society and as we only start to realise the impact, it’s clear that leadership and innovation will play a vital role in our recovery.

“Covid 19 has completely reframed the world as we know it and as we emerge from the crisis and embark on the road to recovery, we all need positive role models who are inquisitive and who are thinking about what’s next.”

I myself have had some fantastic role models along the way; people who have mentored, trusted and empowered me to try – even if it led to a mistake. It’s important to be always learning as you set yourself new goals and targets, so ensure that your role model is someone relevant to that goal.

As a woman in a leadership role, do you believe it is your responsibility to lead by example and encourage other women to reach their full potential?

For me it is important for girls to see women running businesses, driving success and achieving results. Most young women in Ireland have heard of, or ordered from Just Eat and it is great to be able to show that there are a host of successful women on the leadership team, driving the growth of the company including our Commercial Director, Head of Marketing and Senior Brand Manager.

It has been so rewarding to work at an innovative technology company which has changed the way we live and empowered consumers to get more of what they want, when and where they want it as well. Within Just Eat we focus on the concept of being an ally. The female – and male – leaders within the company are encouraged to be allies for those working their way up through the organisation. This is something that I try to do. Supporting, encouraging and mentoring younger women and helping them to reach their potential.

As we face huge uncertainly it’s extremely important that we work together, lift each other up to thrive in success, empower each other to face our fears.

Women in 2020 are world leaders, CEO’s, entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, innovators and so much more. It is important that we lead with compassion during these difficult times and that we inspire the next generation to rise again.

How has Just Eat evolved to accommodate the changing needs of its clients, and employees during this pandemic?

These are the most challenging times the restaurants we work with will have ever been through and perhaps one of our biggest challenges on the ground has been servicing the demand from restaurants to get online. Through our investment in additional resources we’re working around the clock to give those businesses an opportunity to continue operating – helping them to quickly and efficiently adapt the way they operate.

Our teams are in continuous contact with restaurant partners to ensure that all restaurants and their delivery teams are fully aware of the HSE guidelines on hygiene and social isolation and that they are adhering to them so that customers can be assured of a safe and reliable food delivery service in the weeks ahead.

The profile of the food being delivered has changed significantly in recent years and can range from a salad for lunch working from home on a Monday to a set of ingredients for cooking on Tuesday to ice-cream for dessert on Wednesday. We’ve seen in recent months how Technology can improve people’s lives and that includes the ability to have more and more things delivered to their homes. The traditional takeaway meal remains popular but the range of food types delivered every week continues to change significantly.

By putting our customers and restaurant partners at the heart of our strategy we have ensured that we are creating a service that people want and provides a solution to a problem. Prioritising customer feedback and constantly looking for ways to improve means we are always looking to develop our offering.

Who are your current role models during these challenging times and why?

Aoibheann O’Brien and Iseult Ward because of their insightful invention of the Food Cloud product and their responsive efforts to support those most at risk during the crisis.  This technology led social enterprise has enabled businesses to redistribute surplus food to over 175 charities that are supporting vulnerable families, the elderly and those self-isolating with underlying health conditions in communities right across Ireland. Working in the technology industry and spearheading Just Eat’s efforts to connect the struggling restaurant trade with the consumer in recent months, I really admire their continued commitment and innovation.

Has it all been challenging or are there ‘silver linings’?

Just Eat is doing everything in its power to drive the necessary orders to keep all its restaurant partners busy during these difficult days with a lot of new restaurants joining the platform that perhaps wouldn’t have traditionally offered a delivery service.

Demand is there, with Just Eat App downloads in recent weeks up 70% y-o-y, but there has also been a lot of growth in the category beyond the traditional food offering. Demand for desserts for example increased by over 280% with a partnership with Omniplex Cinemas delivering classic cinema snacks to customers in Dublin, while cinemas remained closed.

While healthy food may not have been something customers would have traditionally associated with takeaway, there are hundreds of options available on the expanding Just Eat menu, so it was really encouraging to see a 220% increase in healthy orders placed during lockdown. Healthy orders in May were actually up 300% on January of this year which is perhaps a sign that resolutions set during the second half of this year have a better chance than those long forgotten in January!

What businesses/brands/industries have stood out for you as ‘adapting’ during the crisis?

I would have to say without a shadow of a doubt the restaurant industry, which has shown huge resilience and creativity. The enforced period of closure, coupled with the guidelines on social distancing has made it impossible for some to weather the storm, but for those who have continued to trade through innovation and the support of takeaway and delivery services, their ability to adapt is key.

As a company we provided €1million worth of supports to the many thousands of independent restaurants we work with across Ireland to help them stay online during the crisis with a lot of new restaurants joining the platform in recent months that perhaps wouldn’t have traditionally offered a delivery service. Many of these restaurants are long established businesses and sit at the heart of their local communities, so they’re important employers who also provide an important service to their local customers.

What we wanted to do straight away was let them know that we were there to support them and were delighted that many restaurants did decide to move into takeaway and delivery for the first time, adapting their menus and diversifying their offering in response to the customer demand.

What role does technology play in your current working day and in communicating with your teams?

Just Eat is a technology business and a perfect example of how technology is improving our lives. Digital transformation is driving the delivery of goods and services in recent months and consumers are increasingly engaging with brands online. Technology is the key to our business’ success, it allows us to engage with our customers and partners, facilitates a speedy delivery service and new innovations to improve the customer experience.

We communicate with all partners in a similar way through our app and this has proven to be a winning formula for our now 2,500 restaurant partners and customers across the country.

By utilising ordering data we are able to identify trends and work with our partners to make sure we can meet the ever-changing demands of our customers. Technology has enabled us to identify emerging developments in new food tastes. For example, we now have an increased range of healthy options available – including vegan meals, paleo and gluten-free.

We are continuously working to explore the many ways that technology can shape and transform how customers have traditionally interacted with food. For example, we also use data analytics and business intelligence to help inform restaurant menus, advise them on opening hours, as well as sharing ordering trends and changes in taste – even locations for their own expansion.

Can you share one important lesson/observation you have made in recent months?

Expect the unexpected!

As a disruptor, not everyone always understood or recognised the vision and the goals of the Just Eat business model, but it’s been so rewarding to work at such an innovative technology company that has been so immersed in the need of the local community during these strange and disconcerting times.