It’s 10:00 p.m., you’re in your sweatpants, and you really don’t want to go to the store for those cookies you’re craving. Or maybe you need an energy boost to help you study, but can’t take time away from studying to grab a soda. Or maybe the baby starts fussing and you realise you’re out of diapers and the store is closed. What do you do?
Call Room Service.
The online delivery service started in Halifax at the end of August last year. In the seven months they’ve been operating, they’ve gone from a dozen orders a week to hundreds, and now they’re looking at expanding.
“We do a lot of social media marketing, and a lot of content creation on Instagram,” said President and co-founder of Room Service Johnathan Cannon. “We’ve had some certain pieces of content really take off and be good for us, especially in the last few months. So, we went from doing maybe 100 orders in a month to doing maybe 400 or 500 in a month.”
Cannon started the family business last year with his father and two brothers. Each Cannon takes on a different area of the business, and they have one full-time employee: Cannon’s girlfriend, who acts as a company manager and runs their social media accounts.
The premise is simple: Room Service is a delivery service, operating on the Halifax peninsula and up through Clayton Park. With everything from Oreos to cat food on offer, the Cannon family will bring your goods to your door.
Cannon was inspired by companies like Seamless, and wanted to transition the idea to work for a smaller market.
“This on-demand economy is really starting to take over. You can get razors, Dollar Shave Club, shipped to your door. You can get MeUndies, underwear and socks, shipped monthly,” Cannon explained. “Just because you don’t live in New York or you don’t live in Toronto or Montreal doesn’t mean you don’t have an appetite for a service like ours.”
In fact, many people in the HRM have an appetite for Room Service. Right now, Cannon is looking at expanding the delivery radius to include Bedford, but the biggest hurdle? Getting across the bridge.
“We have people asking about that every single day. It’s ‘when are you coming to Dartmouth, when are you coming to Sackville? The constraint there is we’ve only got inventory in one location,” Cannon said. “If you order in the next delivery spot, the promise is 45-minute deliveries. So it’s difficult to keep that promise, if we were to open ourselves up to downtown Dartmouth or somewhere on Portland street, we could over there in 45 minutes, but then to get back and get the next delivery, it would throw us off.”
Cannon says he and his family are looking at ways to include Dartmouth deliveries, and they hope to have a solution in the next few months. In the meantime, the site keeps growing to include more offerings.
When they launched, Room Service had about 150 items for offer, mostly snack foods for a university market. But as they’ve grown and looked at attracting other demographics, there are now close to 600 products up for grabs, including perishables, pet food, baby food, and kitchen supplies. Many of the new products are direct suggestions from customers.
“We get emails all the time, like, ‘you guys should be adding coke bottles,’ those little candy coke bottles,” Cannon recalled. “We added those three weeks ago and we almost can’t keep them on the shelves.”
Other popular items are McCain Deep’n Delicious cakes, and blue Gatorade.
“It’s unbelievable how insatiable Halifax is for blue Gatorade,” Cannon marveled. “I think blue is the worst one, personally.”
Though he doesn’t eat many of the snacks he sells, Cannon’s go to are the Sweet Chili Heat Doritos, another big seller on the site.
The business has benefitted from word-of-mouth and social media offers, and got thousands of hits on its first day up. That’s why Cannon refutes the notion that on-demand services won’t work in a city like Halifax.
“It might not be something that makes us a million dollars,” Cannon said with a laugh, “(but) people are willing to pay for convenience. Especially when I was in university, what I wouldn’t pay for someone to bring me a Gatorade on a Sunday morning.”