Q&A: Itsu [to you]'s MD, Celeste Tobias-Metcalfe

Itsu [to you] has launched as a subsidiary brand of the fast-food sushi chain and hopes to develop into a digital food delivery service. Essential eCommerce speaks to Itsu's former head of marketing, and now MD at Itsu [to you], Celeste Tobias-Metcalfe to find out more about the new company.

Tell us a little about Itsu [to you].

The opportunity to make digital delicious was too exciting a challenge to resist. We’ve spent nine months applying years of learning from the Itsu retail operation to make this possible – with a bespoke menu, specialised packaging, fleets of e-bikes and video bike boxes, let alone the app itself.

Why is it a start-up subsidiary of Itsu and not part of the company?

The success of the Itsu shops is the harmony between teams, menu and equipment. The [to you] harmony is very different – customer interaction with the app, our teams in bespoke, non-customer facing kitchens and our fleet of ninja riders. The [to you] operation will always run out of bespoke kitchens rather than out of our shops and restaurants. The Itsu [to you] is part of the original Itsu app, so we may be two separate companies but we’re one beautiful brand. 

Why did you go for mobile app and not stick to mobile web?

Mobile app brings great features for our customers such as allowing them to track their ninja to their door. It also provides integration with contact books when creating events and inviting people via email, plus faster payment through Apple Pay.

What is important to remember when creating an app?

Customers, customers, customers. What’s important to our customers is important to us, whether that means Facebook login, clear nutritional and allergen information or simply being able to split the bill easily.

Are you competing with the likes of Deliveroo?

A bit of healthy competition never did anyone any harm. Itsu [to you] is an end-to-end operation that specialises in delivering sushi and hot noodles. We couldn’t hand our food over to a third party for delivery. We want to ensure that we own the journey from our customer’s order to their door.

Is 'digital food' a lucrative market?

It’s a hugely growing market. We are all professionals when it comes to eating as we eat three times a day. Taking the wisdom from years of Itsu's retail world and applying it to innovative technology is incredibly exciting.

How do you intend to expand the service?

We plan to open a second kitchen by the end of 2016 and we're excited about our kitchen pipeline for London (and beyond!) next year.

Was Apple Pay easy to integrate?

We’ve worked with very innovative tech partners such as MyCheck, so whilst Apple Pay is very new technology we didn’t find any problems with integration.

What is MyCheck's involvement?

MyCheck built the application, integrated the technology from partners such as Google and Bringg, and handles the order and payment. The ordering and payment process that MyCheck developed is unique to our knowledge. For groups, customers can build one order from multiple devices, choose to share specific dishes with friends or colleagues and then pay individually using the payment method of choice. We think the ability to collaboratively build an order simultaneously yet check out separately will be a major draw, especially with corporates.

What was the thinking behind rolling it out to groups?

It started with the idea of using technology to allow customers to order apart but eat beautiful together, bringing offices and friends together around desks and dinner tables whilst making it incredibly easy to not only split the bill but also share dishes. The menu and app have been built with both groups and individuals in mind. 

How do you think we'll be ordering food in ten years time?

People’s relationship with and understanding of food has evolved hugely. Equally the pace at which technology is evolving is incredible. Who knows?  I wouldn’t be surprised if Fitbits were ordering for us.

What are the benefits of using cloud technology?

Quite simple – scalability, availability and affordability.

What keeps you up at night?

Everything. Last night I was wondering if using a shaker to put pomegranate seeds on our hot brown and wild rice was a good system or if maybe a little scoop might be more consistent.

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