Winnipeg-based SkipTheDishes is appointing the former managing director of Twitter Canada as its third chief executive officer this year.
Paul Burns will become the new CEO of SkipTheDishes, the online food delivery company told The Globe and Mail ahead of a public announcement on Tuesday. His predecessor, Steve Puchala, is retiring after less than nine months at the top job. Howard Migdal, whom Mr. Puchala had replaced, was moved up the corporate ladder just shy of five months into his tenure.
A significant leadership shuffle at Just Eat Takeaway.com, the Dutch conglomerate that owns SkipTheDishes and Chicago-based Grubhub, kick-started these changes in mid-March. Mr. Migdal had been named executive vice-president of Just Eat and CEO of Grubhub, while Mr. Puchala was promoted from his position as senior vice-president of SkipTheDishes.
Now, Mr. Burns, an external hire, will be at the helm of SkipTheDishes at a critical time for the company and the overall food-delivery sector. Subsequent to the pandemic-led demand for home delivery, which provided a massive boost for third-party platforms, profitability forecasts have gradually softened, as in-person dining has resumed and restaurants have increasingly launched their own courier services.
In a quarterly report last month, Just Eat’s CEO, Jitse Groen, said that although there had been a year-over-year increase in the transactions made through the company’s business in Europe, North America saw a notable decline. He attributed that to a slower recovery in Canada and the strength of the U.S. dollar. At the same time, Mr. Groen said, Just Eat remains interested in a full or partial sale of Grubhub, which executives acknowledged has struggled to make money or be sold off.
In June, Mr. Migdal slashed 15 per cent of Grubhub’s work force, laying off around 400 people. Prior to that, in September of last year, nearly 350 jobs were cut in Canada, representing roughly 11 per cent of the employees at SkipTheDishes, which Mr. Migdal told The Globe was because of stagnated growth.
In an interview, Mr. Burns said all of this is “still part of the first innings” for SkipTheDishes. The company was quickly acquired by Just Eat as a rising startup in 2016 and has since expanded to 250 cities and small towns across Canada.
“From the outside,” the recent leadership changes could be seen “as very disruptive or a lot of chaos,” but there’s none of that inside, he said. Having worked before with the mercurial Elon Musk, Mr. Burns certainly knows about corporate chaos – and he’s bringing along those learnings to his new role.
For almost five years, Mr. Burns managed Canadian operations at X, the social-media platform dubbed Twitter until this past summer. He left that company in January and was there during Mr. Musk’s tumultuous takeover. Before that, he held senior roles at Nokia, Shaw Communications and several other global firms.
“Elon Musk pushes people into the realm of impossible, and I saw it firsthand,” Mr. Burns said. “He elevates the experience and the product to a place where most organizations say that cannot be done. That is an inspiring thing, and I hope to bring that thinking to Skip, but of course in a human way.”
Under his watch, the strategy will be to continue opening up new avenues for delivery services beyond food offerings, Mr. Burns said. This will likely include a puffing up of Skip Express Lane, the company’s network of grocery partners and microfulfilment centres. His long-shot ambition is for customers to use the platform numerous times a day for multiple needs in their homes.
“The market in Canada for delivery is substantially bigger today than it was prepandemic. We always knew that wasn’t going to be sustainable postpandemic. But these habits are here to stay,” he said. “We haven’t even begun to see the real fruits of what this amazing thing can actually become.”