SMILEFOOD: «Ukrainian Toyota» among online restaurants


SMILEFOOD is the first online restaurant in Ukraine, opened 8 years ago in Odessa. In Ukraine, SMILEFOOD became the only company in its segment to receive a grant from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the implementation of this system. Every month, the top management of the company undergoes training in one of the system modules at Kaizen Institute Ukraine and then implements it into work processes. We talked with Alexander Sokolov, the head of SMILEFOOD, who opened the kimono to our editorial office about his industry, his production, and his plans for the future because such an open company as SMILEFOOD simply has nothing to hide.

SMILEFOOD is the first online restaurant in Ukraine since 2013. Explain in more detail how else you differ from other establishments?

The main difference between our company and others is that we control the entire production cycle: from receiving an order to preparing, sending, packaging … Unlike delivery services, we have our own kitchen. And this gives us the opportunity to follow each stage. We initially take into account that the dish needs to be brought to the client, and based on this, the cooking technology is determined, and this factor also affects the composition of the menu. The whole business model is built on the fact that we prepare and deliver food. Most restaurants use delivery services such as Glovo and Raketa. Our company has its own courier delivery service, and this contributes to the fact that we fully control the quality and timing of food delivery. It is the management of the entire cycle that allows us to implement tools such as Kaizen.

Tell us more about the lean manufacturing that your company implements. What is its essence?

Our company received a grant from the EBRD for the implementation of the complete Kaizen technology, which includes 11 modules. So Lean Manufacturing is only part of Kaizen. This is just a small percentage of everything we do. SMILEFOOD is also involved in the development of strategies and training systems, employee motivation, process optimization, and much more. We are much more than just Lean production.

What about food quality control in Ukraine in general? How is this done in different establishments?

SMILEFOOD is the only online restaurant in Ukraine certified according to international standards ISO 9001 2015 and working with the HACCP system. Therefore, you can be sure that the quality of food in our establishment is at the highest level.

As far as I know, things are different with other online restaurants now, since the work processes in their establishments are not always controlled. Few think about what a responsibility it is to produce food and provide restaurant services to the general public.

In your opinion, how can production be systematized? How to solve emerging problems?

You need to understand that for systematization, first of all, algorithms are needed: the creation of technological maps, instructions, and the correct training of personnel. Our company has charted a clear course towards automation and implementation of system processes in our business.

We have developed the SMILEFOOD School site, where we create video algorithms so that an employee can quickly adapt to work. And now the company’s employees — couriers, administrators, cooks — can study online. Our company is sure that you also need to be able to teach, and the online training system helps us a lot in this. And we believe that very soon we will be able to create one of the best products in this area.

SMILEFOOD only looks forward. There is no point in denying and opposing the possibilities of new technologies. On the contrary, you need to boldly look towards robotization and, if possible, use the same courier drones that will facilitate and speed up the delivery process. For a long time, robotic devices have appeared in the kitchen, which take away part of human responsibilities. It seems to me that in the next 20 years the profession of a professional chef will disappear, and the kitchen will be completely robotized.

How can other establishments, following your example, implement the Kaizen system?

Our company conducts external communication. We are open to everyone. However, before following our example, other establishments need to initially understand that Kaizen is not only about Lean. Every company needs its own strategy. Even if we share all of our regulations, they will not work for other companies. Everything is purely individual. The system is not as versatile as many would like.

Relatively recently, SMILEFOOD launched the SMILEFOODER project. How is its uniqueness manifested?

Its uniqueness is a referral program, the call of which is simple: to give money to those who sell us. SMILEFOODER allows regular customers to earn up to 14% on their own orders and even on orders from friends and acquaintances. The people who promote us are part of our team. If someone recommends us, then we want to thank him.

How does your affiliate program work?

Our affiliate program is that the client who recommends us will receive cashback from their own orders, from orders from friends, and from orders from friends of friends.

We also began to implement a motivational program, for the correct operation of which, among other things, the internal currency SMILECOIN was created. Our plans are to create products that cannot be bought for ordinary money but only for our currency. That is, some items on the menu can only be ordered by our regular customers. We think about our customers and, of course, we want to express our gratitude for their loyalty.

Do you have any ideas that you would like to implement in the future, perhaps, have already begun to implement?

To be honest, we have a lot of ideas.

One of them is the development of the internal currency SMILECOIN so that managers can motivate their employees with it. We are developing our own internal Internet site, where employees will be able to purchase not only goods but also accessories.

Another dream (hopefully realizable) is to get our products off the ground. It would be great if Elon Musk took our pizza to Mars (Laughs).

And, of course, our main goal is to create a 100-year-old company with a huge history. We want to be the Toyota of online restaurants. We will approach business in a structured way and carry out our plans because we are making a great product. We want people to smile knowing that they have made the right choice. After all, what is most important? Smile!

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