Nick Cameron was waiting for his bill at a restaurant.
The servers were busy, causing it to take a while. But he was ready to go.
“Wouldn’t it be convenient if you could pay on your phone and get out of here?” he thought.
The lightbulb in his head flicked on. The Island native studied IT in Halifax, and had experience developing phone apps with IBM and AirCanada.
“(But) my goal was to start my own kind of business someday,” he said. “I’d rather take a risk and build something myself,” he said.
In November 2017, he started developing the app after his work shifts. He realized a bill payment feature wouldn’t be feasible right away, and development took about two years because he was working on it part-time.
“This year is when I really went all in,” Cameron said.
Now, he’s living back in Charlottetown and working on the app full-time. Cameron decided to release version one of his food delivery service, TopServe, in May 2019.
“You can’t grow by developing in your basement for years,” he said.
The current version is available on web browsers, iPhones, and will be on Android phones by the end of this year. Currently, six restaurants in the Charlottetown area will take food orders using TopServe and will deliver them up to 20 kilometres from their location, including to Stratford and Cornwall.
SkipTheDishes, a popular food delivery service that came to P.E.I. last year, also delivers food within Charlottetown. According to their website’s ordering page, they’ll charge customers $2.95 to have food delivered from a restaurant 1.4 km away, and $4.25 from a restaurant 8.3 km away.
TopServe charges customers $2.50 to have food delivered anywhere under 10 km, rising incrementally afterward. That charge goes toward TopServe’s drivers, who are outsourced by Charlottetown Express Delivery.
TopServe’s current selection of restaurants:
Sugar Skull Cantina
Cafe De Prince
Silver Stream Chinese
To help subsidize drivers and their own expenses, TopServe takes 25 per cent of what restaurants makes on each delivered order. This percentage reduces the more a customer spends, and TopServe provides restaurants with promotion, analytics, and customer acquisition in exchange.
“People are moving away from phoning the restaurant and are ordering digital,” he explained.
Cameron has been busy meeting with restaurants to pitch his new service. He has some team members working with him and is seeing about five to 10 food orders a week.
There could be a climb in orders once the school year starts, but he recognizes he’ll have to put in a lot of work to make the business sustainable.
“Just like every business.”
Cameron’s excited to give Islanders a local option for food delivery. Restaurants can sign up and add their menus on TopServe’s website, and in the future, he plans to add features like making table reservations, making bill payments, and allowing restaurants who use local produce to connect with farmers, he said.
He’s keen to see the tech industry grow on P.E.I. Many people in his trade have to move off-Island to get a tech job, but he hopes to see that change with more companies like his, he said.