Will the Edinburgh Booze Delivery ‘pandemonium business model’ help hospitality survive?

Robyn Black

Robyn Black

14 May 2020

Iain McPherson, founder of Panda & Sons and Imbibe’s Innovator of the Year 2020, has created a new business model in the process of setting up the Edinburgh Booze Delivery during lockdown and hopes other bars will follow suit. 

In order to keep his business alive and to help other local drinks businesses, McPherson set up Edinburgh Booze Delivery two weeks ago.

Speaking to Imbibe ahead of the third weekend of trading McPherson confirmed that the home delivery off-licence model had been such a success he is now extending the initiative to cover Thursday as well as Friday and Saturday nights.

The idea was to join forces with bars, breweries and distilleries in the area to sell their products for home delivery in the locality

Edinburgh Booze Delivery was initially conceived to be a way of supporting local businesses and providing employment for hospitality workers. The idea was to join forces with bars, breweries and distilleries in the area to sell their products for home delivery in the locality. There’s a website to order from and cocktails, beers, wines and snacks will arrive by contactless delivery between 2pm and 10pm.

Initially he looked at using delivery service providers, such as Just Eat and Deliveroo, but concluded their pricing made it just too expensive and so set out to create a model that worked for small, local businesses. Currently businesses in Edinburgh to have signed up include The Pop Up Geeks Bar, Campervan Brewery and the Electric Spirit Co.

He is calling it the ‘pandemonium’ business model and believes it could be rolled out to other areas to help the hospitality industry survive.

‘It’s a simple model in which we take 10% of the total transaction, which covers our costs. We think that’s fair but if we – or someone else – comes up with a better one we’d certainly look to change it.’

McPherson says that the operation has been a huge learning curve, the biggest of which was the website which he had to build himself.

This is not just a solution to a short term problem

‘I’ve got no money so everything had to be done from scratch by me, including building the website, and there were some issues with ordering to start with that have thankfully now all been ironed out,’ he told Imbibe. ‘There’s now also a lot more volunteers helping me and people have been very kind donating their time and skills, so it is easing the pressure a bit.’

There have been other learnings too. Initially the service offered bottles of big brand spirits and beers but these have not been popular, with users instead opting for locally produced drinks. Generic brands will now be removed from the offer, with just non-local wines remaining – given that Edinburgh doesn’t produce much of its own.

He is also about to launch a new feature – the Edinburgh Cocktail Collective, which invites local bars to offer classic cocktails with a subtle twist to appeal to a wider audience than just cocktail aficionados. Ice is also coming online, and a range of packages such as the ‘G&T Pack’ consisting of a bottle of spirit, mixers, appropriate garnish and ice for people to create drinks at home.

Further down the line there are also plans for Zoom tastings and, when restrictions are lifted, a ‘bartender at home’ package - because this is not just a solution to a short term problem, McPherson says.

‘I don’t want to be overly pessimistic but when we open our doors for the first time after lockdown is over, we have to be realistic that what we are looking at will be something very different from before. There’ll be fewer customers, not just because of social distancing but because people will be nervous about spending time in enclosed spaces, and we also need to face the idea that people will have become used to socialising from home now, and that’s a new market we all need to target.’

He hopes that other areas will be able to launch similar initiatives to help more businesses survive and therefore more hospitality workers employed.

‘At the start of this I was doing a lot of things on social media and online but I felt I wasn’t doing enough to properly help people. I really didn’t want to look back when all this is over and regret that.’

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