Winnipeg-based SkipTheDishes is appointing Howard Migdal its new chief executive officer, as the online platform grapples with a broad-based rout in the technology sector and a staggered pullback of demand for food-delivery services among Canadians.
Mr. Migdal has been chief operating officer at SkipTheDishes for nearly two years and held several senior roles before that. He is replacing Kevin Edwards as CEO, who is now retiring.
Over the past four years, Mr. Edwards steered the company through oversized growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also launched Skip Express Lane, an online marketplace that employs microfulfilment centres for the delivery of groceries and other household items beyond restaurant services. Skip Express Lane continues to expand in the increasingly crowded e-commerce space.
But in his last year at the company, Mr. Edwards also oversaw layoffs amid a sector-wide downturn. In September, Amsterdam-based Just Eat Takeaway.com, a global conglomerate that bought SkipTheDishes in 2016 when it was a high-profile startup, cut nearly 350 people in Canada. It represented roughly 11 per cent of the work force at SkipTheDishes, which now has about 3,200 employees.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail ahead of an official announcement on Thursday, Mr. Migdal described his plans for what comes next. He said he hopes to invest in new business niches at SkipTheDishes, such as the delivery of alcohol in provinces and territories where that is permitted.
“If you had told me in 2019 that our business would be double its size in 2022, I would’ve told you that you’re crazy,” Mr. Migdal said. “We’ve built a resilient business and I plan on growing it. So, anything you want within 45 minutes or less, we’re there to get it to you, whether that’s health products, beauty products or something that’s from a toy store or what have you.”
Delivery services have struggled recently with a number of concerns, stemming from a reopening world and markets that have clobbered tech companies, coupled with union clashes over labour rights for couriers.
Many companies saw rapid growth over the two-year period when consumers were stuck at home amid pandemic shutdowns. Now, as dining resumes in full force, they have been forced to cut costs.
Mr. Migdal said such was the case with the recent layoffs at SkipTheDishes, when most of the workers impacted were in the recruiting team, a majority of which is based out of Winnipeg.
“As the pandemic ramped up, our recruiting team got very large. … This restructuring happened because our growth slowed coming out of the pandemic. We just didn’t need as many couriers,” he said.
Mr. Migdal, however, said he has navigated “tougher waters” than the current slowdown in demand. He was one of two entrepreneurs who founded GrubCanada, the country’s first food-delivery platform, in his university years when he was in Michigan. And since then, save for a stint at San Francisco-based online-booking service HotelTonight, he has almost exclusively worked in the food-delivery business.
“When I first started, only 5 per cent of restaurants offered delivery. Now, 60 per cent do in Canada,” he said. “Food delivery has really become a habitual part of Canadians’ lives. And customers right now, compared to peak-pandemic lockdowns, are only ordering 5 per cent less frequently. Bull market or bear, this type of sustainable resilience just isn’t going away.”
SkipTheDishes operates in nearly 250 cities and small towns across Canada.