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The big Snacko attacko

Canada’s delivery-only convenience store en route to success

Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 11.24.48 AMCustomers in Old Toronto, Little Italy, Chinatown, and neighbouring areas of Canada’s largest city who crave a bite of chocolate or a salty nibble late at night but don’t want to make the trip to the nearest store, now have an option to appease their snack attack – from the comfort of their couch. Snacko is one of Canada’s first delivery-only convenience stores.

Started last summer by Connor McPhail, Snacko brings together virtual reality and old-fashioned convenience. As an account manager with Uber Eats, the app-based food-order delivery firm, McPhail saw firsthand how people have come to rely on this new business model. “I got to see the world of food delivery and how it is growing very quickly,” he says.

McPhail also made two astute observations: desserts were an underserviced category and late-night deliveries were uncommon. He also became aware of restaurants that offered only delivery service. “That piqued my interest. I learned a lot about them.”

Armed with personal insight and up-to-date research, McPhail opened Snacko, a convenience store without a storefront. The process works like this. Customers go online to a delivery service like Uber Eats, foodora or Skip the Dishes and select their purchases. Once they have completed the checkout process, which usually takes only several seconds, Snacko accepts the order and a driver arrives to deliver the items.

To ensure service was affordable – in addition to the cost of the merchandise there is a delivery fee – McPhail looked for ways to keep overhead expenses low. He found it in an 8’ x 10’ shipping container that is now home to Snacko. “I wanted something small from where orders could be sent out,” he says.

The selection of snacks is large and getting larger and more diverse. On the virtual shelves, customers can choose from cookies, including Pop Tarts Cookies and Golden Oreos, to 16 varieties of chips and time-tested candy like Ring Pop and Maynards Cherry Blasters…and more. “I’m looking to offer what other convenience stores don’t,”says McPhail.

The 24-year-old store owner, for example, recently introduced edible chocolate chip cookie dough, which is purchased from a local caterer. Such partnerships are inherent in McPhail’s business philosophy. The thinking is that when you support small business, each business benefits.

Introducing new snack items is also easier in a delivery-only business model. “The beautiful thing about my concept is that I can update the menu instantly,” says McPhail. “I also get instant feedback.”

McPhail is continually testing the market to see what resonates with customers. There have been a few eye-openers. “I’m surprised how many people ordered water,”he says. “I’ve seen customers order 10 bottles and that’s it.”

The cost of bottled water from Snacko: $1.49. “Our prices are similar to what you’d find in a convenience store,” says McPhail. “We keep our costs down to be competitive. We are selling convenience.”

Customers find it is money well spent. Business is steady – and growing. McPhail has already hired two part-time employees. “A lot of our customers keep coming back,” he says. “We fit nicely into people’s lifestyles.”

That includes a high level of comfort with online shopping and the use of social media. Thanks to prominent placement on Uber Eats – where Snacko is the highest rated store in downtown Toronto – and the active use of social media to reach new and existing customers, business is doing very well. “We’re definitely looking at expansion plans,” says McPhail. “We want to make our service available to as many people as possible.” 

Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 11.25.20 AMSnacko’s top tips:

Differentiate yourself from othersStanding out from the crowd keeps you top of mind. At Snacko, for example, each order comes in a nice bag with a company logo. The little extra touches matter.

Exceed customer expectationsGoing above and beyond matters to customers. Connor McPhail, for instance, often writes a personal note for the customer on the delivery bag where it can’t be missed. Sometimes a few extra treats are included.