Mark Scattolon feels it's important to distinguish between "hungry" and "hangry," a colloquial term that has shot to the head of the lunch table.
"When you're so hungry you start to get angry, you become hangry," the 27-year-old Hamilton, Ont. native explains.
People may experience individual degrees of "hanger," but one thing they share in this Uber age of immediate gratification is a demand to get their food as quickly as possible.
They're willing to pay for it, too. According to a MasterCard survey, customers are likely to spend up to 30 per cent more when they use their cell phones to facilitate the ordering process.
Impatience, tech savvy and branding smarts – the millennial trifecta behind many successful startups – inspired Mr. Scattolon and his co-founder, Fabian Raso, to create a comprehensive way to streamline the takeout process.
"In university I used to order the same bagel and coffee from a popular campus café and I'd be late for class because it was also everyone else's favourite café, so there were always lineups," Mr. Scattolon says.
"One day I was about to leave the line, when Fabian, who was already in class, texted me and asked me to order him breakfast. My light-bulb moment happened. 'Why can't he send in his order from his phone? Why can't I? I know exactly what I want, how long it takes to make and when I'll be arriving.' I texted him back and told him to leave class and meet me at the pub. We had work to do."
Four years later, the result is Hangry, a mobile ordering and payment app that allows customers to effectively "skip the line" by ordering and paying for their food on their phone and directly coordinating a pick up time with the restaurant.
Tapping into his marketing background, Mr. Scattolon has also designed the technology for customers to save personalized food preferences and sign up for targeted promotional benefits.
This means hungry urbanites can check for local meal options based on their geographic location and receive a personal message when their order is ready to be picked up. A small service fee is added to the final tab for customers.
Restaurants, on the other hand, are not charged, a business model that distinguishes Hangry from its competitors so far.
"Restaurant margins are extremely slim as it is and we found that bigger chains typically unwilling to pay for these fees. We want to help grow our restaurant partners without cutting into their margin," he says.
Since the app launched in January, 27 restaurants and several chains – including Smoke's Poutinerie and Michel's Baguette – have signed up for the service. Mr. Scattolon says they're signing up more restaurants each week, including a major Mexican food chain with 40 locations.
Provisions for restaurant owners include a special "Hangry" designation on-site, where customers can flash their e-receipts and pick up their order in minutes while the rest of the analogs wait in line nearby. Restaurants who sign up also receive a point of sale tablet to help staff manage their orders and communicate with consumers.
Is an app that gets Torontonians their customized burritos faster going to change the world? Not likely. Although a few less hangry people roaming Toronto's city streets could be considered a public service.
Mr. Scattolon says he's aware that mobile ordering and payment apps are a dime a dozen and he has stiff competition from existing restaurant ordering sites like JustEat.ca and more recently, Grabb.
That's why he's hoping to offer clients more than just a good, hot meal. Hangry collects customer data based on insights into user behaviour, analytics for which he feels restaurants will be willing to pay.
"There's a full 360 degree area of opportunity to leverage mobile ordering to help our restaurant partners help understand their clients through data and using it in a rich marketing platform," he says.
"We can educate restaurants about who their customers are, when they're ordering, what are the most popular items in the restaurant. Every action in the app, we tag to the user: if you always put hot sauce on burrito, we tag you as a spicy user. It helps restaurants understand where to put their marketing efforts, so they can send out hyper-targeted offers based on various triggers, like a promo on spicy burritos. Customers receive a push notification about the burrito promotion around the time they're starting to think about lunch."
Where Hangry is also thinking more broadly than the competition is in its reach. Mr. Scattolon and his team of five partners are ready to launch a vertical platform that would introduce their ordering capabilities to any venue where food is served, like golf courses, food trucks, sporting arenas and nightclubs.
A shot on Dragon's Den in the fall could help them get there faster.
"We're pivoting toward where Hangry would work and the good news is we built our technology anticipating this so there isn't any huge design change."
As the company attracts more restaurant partners, the lunchtime line may shift to the Hangry counter. It's a hypothetical situation the team would be thrilled to tackle...on a full stomach.