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Steve Puchala, who was recently promoted to become the new CEO of Winnipeg-based SkipTheDishes, believes consumers made food delivery an important part of their daily habits over the past few years.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

The newly minted chief executive officer of SkipTheDishes Inc. is counting on the pandemic-led demand for online delivery services to expand the company’s offerings from food to other options in Canada.

Steve Puchala, who was recently promoted to the top job, believes consumers made food delivery an important part of their daily habits over the past few years. “But no one expected it to maintain that level,” he said in an interview.

“The highs of the pandemic, from an ordering perspective, were defaulted because you literally couldn’t go to a restaurant. So, what we’re really building on is that customer behaviour.”

A large part of his strategy under the new role is to expand business in areas that SkipTheDishes hasn’t captured yet, Mr. Puchala said. “When you have the ability to deliver hot food to someone’s doorstep in such an efficient way, that capability allows you to extend into almost any vertical.”

To do this, the company would tap into its pre-existing network of grocery partners and microfulfilment centres. Mr. Puchala is hoping customer habits extend beyond the delivery of food, allowing SkipTheDishes to regularly offer other items such as flowers, pharmaceuticals, pet supplies and alcohol, he said.

“We’re asking what are things people would like to have delivered quickly; how can we get them back more of their time,” he added. “At the end of the day, we want to be everywhere that customers would like us to be. We want to remain a habitual part of their lives.”

Around the world, as people were stuck at home amid COVID-19 shutdowns, the popularity of online delivery platforms surged. Now, however, the triple bind of a pullback on discretionary expenses, a sharp downturn in the technology sector and the resumption of in-person dining is causing concerns for companies such as SkipTheDishes.

On top of that, there is saturation in the market. The volume of delivery services has increased significantly. New platforms have launched to cater to hyperspecific niches such as home-cooked meals, and these apps are creating competition for one another.

Mr. Puchala was promoted at a critical time for SkipTheDishes and also its parent company, Amsterdam-based global conglomerate Just Eat JTKWY. Amid a leadership shuffle, his predecessor Howard Migdal was moved up the corporate ladder in March after spending less than five months as CEO of SkipTheDishes.

Mr. Migdal, to whom Mr. Puchala will now report, has been cross-appointed as an executive vice-president at Just Eat, overseeing its entire North American operations, while also serving as the new CEO of Chicago-based Grubhub, the sister company for SkipTheDishes. But Just Eat is now exploring a full or partial sale of Grubhub, which executives acknowledged last year has struggled to make a profit (without noting financial details about SkipTheDishes).

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Mr. Puchala was recruited as the vice-president of restaurant success and growth, a role he held until his promotion last month.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

Other companies in the food delivery sector have also been facing challenges. San Francisco-based DoorDash Inc. reported wider-than-expected losses in its latest quarter, while grocery delivery service Instacart has repeatedly slashed its valuation and postponed plans to go public because of market volatility.

Still, Mr. Puchala remembers joining SkipTheDishes about 4½ years ago when it was just a rising startup. He was recruited as the vice-president of restaurant success and growth, a role he held until his promotion last month. (He had previously worked at several consulting and sales firms in the United States and Canada.)

And as he begins to hold the top job at the company, which has since quickly become Canada’s largest food delivery service, Mr. Puchala has the same thing on his mind as he did when he joined the company: sustainable growth.

“We have the widest selection in the country and we know we have the best value for customers and our partners. That’s what differentiates us from all the others,” he said, noting that SkipTheDishes operates in more than 250 Canadian cities.

Follow Temur Durrani on Twitter: @temurdurOpens in a new window

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