Soplaya: a more effective and sustainable production chain for the restaurant industry
Soplaya is an Italian company that has been working on optimizing and speeding up the supply chain of the restaurant industry.
The start-up was born in 2017 in Friuli Venezia Giulia (in the northeast of Italy).
Over its first four years of activity, the company has created a network of clients in ten different cities across the northeast of Italy. Then, in 2022, they further expanded their business in the north and centre of the country.
All this happened with the support by P101, that helped Soplaya secure new investors and keep investing. P101 also offered its support for complex business choices and work management.
Everything began by examining the main problems in the restaurant industry
Soplaya founders – Mauro Germani, Gian Carlo Cesarin, Ivan Litsvinenka and Davide Marchesi – started developing their business by analysing their previous experiences. Indeed, at that time, they had already worked in various areas of the restaurant industry.
“Thanks to our network of restaurants, we had already understood a lot about the sector. For instance, we knew that supply management was very complicated and not always transparent and efficient. And this problem involved every aspect of this process, from looking for new manufacturers and suppliers to delivery“, Germani said.
The four entrepreneurs wanted a deeper understanding of the field. Therefore, they talked with hundreds of other restaurants from all over Italy and other countries. This allowed them to “really discover what happens on the other side of the production chain”.
This search highlighted a few relevant problems. In January, vendors need to establish a fixed price for their products. A price that, later on, can turn out to be insufficient to cover all their costs.
Another relevant issue is the length of the distribution chain. It can bring about difficulties for both restaurateurs and manufacturers. In fact, because of this system, Manufacturers’ revenues become more and more narrow. Furthermore, they often receive their payments after a long time (60, 90 days, or even more). On the other hand, restaurateurs do not find suppliers easily. In addition, it can be difficult for them to figure out the actual price of what they want to purchase. Indeed, it is not uncommon to find massive differences in the cost of a product.
Recently, the situation has become even more complex as raw materials have become increasingly expensive. Also, the food service sector has lost 150-200 thousand employees since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. Thus, restaurants find it more and more arduous to keep up with their schedule. Also, energy is getting pricier than ever.
To face this situation, manufacturers and restaurateurs have two choices: lowering the quality of their products or shortening their supply chain. Therefore, manufacturers are often starting their sales or distribution networks. While restaurateurs are directly addressing manufacturers for their purchases. Nevertheless, becoming independent means more costs in terms of time and money for both of them.
“Soplaya is born to sort all these problems out”, Germani explained. “We shorten the distance between manufacturers and restaurateurs. We create direct connections and support these connections with a full automation of the production chain and a very efficient logistic system”.
Soplaya’s technological tools
In 2021, Soplaya created an essential element of its technological apparatus: an app that allows restaurateurs to manage the provisions of their restaurants.
On this platform, users can:
- find new products with the help of machine learning, that can show products that match a client’s needs in a short amount of time.
- accelerate the management of provisions to up to 2 hours every day. Indee, the app and several other tools allow unified payment and BNPL. There is also an additional tool that speeds up the request for samples.
Furthermore, Soplaya has created a system that allows to notify the delivery time to the minute. And, 99,5% of the time, their courier abide to the 2 hours’ time window that the client chooses. The company has also developed features that will allow a complete automation of the production chain, from the delivery process to the management of vendors and prices.
Thanks to all this, the company is playing a role in making the restaurant industry more sustainable: the operations managed with Soplaya’s tools result in low food waste (0.1%). In addition, since they group more deliveries together and employ reusable packaging, they cut CO2 emissions by 50%.
Soplaya and its future
Soplaya aspires to reach a complete automation of the production chain. To do this, they need to introduce machine learning in warehouse operations. Thanks to this, it would be possible to automatically handle demand (restaurants) and supply (manufacturers) and connect the best matches. This would also allow the company to deal with more products and, at the same time, to keep food waste low. Finally, deliveries would remain extremely fast and precise.
The company also desires to strengthen its business presence in the north and centre of Italy. Furthermore, they are planning to work on their BNPL solution to allow automated payments within 30 days.
Finally, Soplaya aims to make restaurant operations fully automatic. They are developing a “premium service” that will comprehend several logistic features and technological tools.