Hurricane Sandy: Delivery Firm Copes With Chaos

Ryan Scott of Seamless. Photo credit: Evan Sung

In anticipation of stopped public transportation, canceled schools and rained-in apartment dwellers, online food and mobile technology company Seamless has been prepared for Hurricane Sandy well before President Obama declared a state of emergency in eight states and Washington, D.C.

"We really take this so personally here. These are moments of truth for the brand," said Ryan Scott, vice president of marketing at Seamless. The company said about 30 percent of the restaurants in the New York City area are closed today.


Scott and Seamless approached Hurricane Sandy with the same strategic precision and gravity as if they were in the World Series of food delivery.

"Our brand is made up of two main things beside the product," Scott said. "People who work here and our customers. To guarantee that experience, we truly try to win their hearts, minds and stomachs by delivering on our promise."

Business continuity is their middle name, so to speak. That has to be the company's core competency, Scott said, especially in bad weather.


Seamless says that its business increases about 15 percent in rainy weather. On Sunday alone, before the hurricane reached its strength, orders jumped 11 percent compared to a typical Sunday, due to a higher share of dinner transactions.

The company, based in New York City, has about 300 employees and over 1.5 million customers, according to Scott.

Seamless' customers are both the restaurant partners and folks ordering food online or through the company's widely used mobile apps. About 40 percent of orders are conducted through the company's app for Android devices, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry.

Consumers or corporate customers use Seamless' online food delivery service for free and restaurant partners just pay a transaction fee for each incremental order.

With the help of consumer operations unit in Utah, the company is helping restaurants communicate whether they are closed due to the hurricane or making sure consumers are getting their orders.

The company can look back at the number of orders for a sequence of days or events, like hurricanes, storms, and heat waves.

It's as though they're a baseball team that has watched every recorded game in the vault. Instead of analyzing batting averages, however, Seamless knows what customers eat. And they are closely monitoring how Hurricane Sandy is affecting Seamless' over 11,000 restaurant partners to see our favorite Greek joint or pizza place will be open for business.

As part of the company's crisis preparedness plans, on Friday, about 10 department heads, from a social media manager to the lead engineers to the CEO, gathered to "prepare the game plan," Scott said.

"Most of the times, we don't even feel like it's a moment of truth, we're so prepared," he said. "An athlete is so prepared that when the game comes, they're in the zone. That's the mentality we use internally here."

The company loves food and understands how important working technology is its business. And it also understands the importance of rewarding teamwork.

If a restaurant decides to stay open in bad weather, Scott said Seamless often makes it a point to encourage consumers to be empathetic toward the delivery person.

"We say, 'Don't forget to leave an extra tip,' which I think is a nice message," he said.