Group tackles how to deal with hunger pangs

The phrase …there's an app for that! now applies to ordering takeout food in Lethbridge.

The team behind the iTakeout app – Caleb Dowdy, twin brothers Clayton and Joel Varjassy and Luke Mayerle – cooked up their idea while not actually wanting to cook anything. They wanted to order takeout food, but could find only one place in town with a functioning smartphone application.

So they 'app-ordered' pizza, which wasn't really their first choice, then thought there must be a way to get more restaurants on board to showcase the wide variety of takeout opportunities in the community.

Their idea garnered a second-place tie for the group in the 2013 South Venture Business Plan Competition, including a $5,000 prize.

South Venture App
App developers pictured left to right include Joel Varjassy, Caleb Dowdy, Luke Mayerle and Clayton Varjassy.

Could they have used the phone book? Probably, but Dowdy says that the move forward in smartphone applications is such that people expect quick solutions at the tap of a touchscreen – so whether it's banking or burritos, gaining access to a product or service should be convenient and fast.

"Not only do we want to give users the ability to order the food, we want them to do so in a rich environment filled with photos and community-populated reviews and other information," says Dowdy.

Dowdy acknowledges there are other takeout apps in the international marketplace, but none that focus on local or regional restaurants, and none that have the initial face-to-face interaction with the developers.

"We plan to put a heavier emphasis on the local marketplace and establish rich connections with our participating restaurants. As well, we want to give users access to as many restaurants as we can within the app, and this is why we plan on actually putting in the face-time with restaurants and not having them simply sign up online," he says.

Dowdy adds that restaurants will have access to a database in which they can add/change menu items on the fly.

"They will be able to add new items, update prices, create daily specials, set takeout hours, and much more."

The initial target demographic will be people between the ages of 18 and 30, especially students.

"Given the recent increased popularity in apps and smartphones among all age groups, we see no reason as to why this app can't be a popular tool for anyone in the Lethbridge area with access to a smart device looking to order takeout," says Dowdy.

Working around school and other part-time jobs, Dowdy says the app development will be done by colleague Shayan Masood, who is currently working a co-operative education job placement at Veeva Systems while the rest of the team works on securing restaurants for a pilot rollout scheduled for the summer.

The full application is expected to launch in September 2013, just in time for the start of a new school year, and as thousands of hungry students return to Lethbridge. For now, signing on will be free and subscribing as a restaurant is free, but Dowdy says they would review that as the app gains market share and popularity.

This story first appeared in the April 2013 edition of the Legend. For a look at the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.