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Transforming Japan’s food delivery industry with Google Maps Platform

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog features Yuichi Sato, Takayuki Niwa, and Tatsuo Mitani of menu corporation, a group company of Reazon Holdings. They explore how menu has used Google Maps Platform capabilities and integrated Mobility services into their food delivery applications, opening up a new frontier for the takeout and food delivery industry in Japan.

“At Reazon Holdings, we’re driven by the mission to continue to create new standards, and menu was launched as part of that vision,” shares Yuichi Sato, Executive Officer of Reazon Holdings, and Director at menu. “Recently, beyond takeout and food delivery services, we expanded our business into the area of quick commerce for supermarkets and department stores. We’ve also added employee welfare programs, such as offering delivery services as an alternative to using the company cafeteria.”

But according to Sato, menu’s goal is more than just to deliver meals efficiently. “Our focus is on providing the joy and pleasure of ‘eating’ to all customers, in various ways. There are often cases where children want to eat something different from their parents. If customers can order different dishes from multiple restaurants in one order, they’ll have a wider choice, as if they are in a food court.”

Yuichi Sato, Executive Officer of Reazon Holdings, and Director at menu and Takayuki Niwa, Director, CTO, and CHRO of Reazon Holdings

To meet these needs, the menu app features a Combo Order function that allows customers to purchase from multiple locations simultaneously with a single order. The company also introduced a membership system that waives basic delivery fees and built specialty partnerships including those with Michelin-starred fine dining restaurants. These efforts have contributed to an increase in repeat customer rate.

Meanwhile, internally, menu establishes trust with its delivery staff. The industry has chronically faced the problems of securing delivery staff and arranging the delivery when orders come in. But, Sato says, “thankfully, we have not been troubled by those problems. I believe this is due to the rewarding payment model where compensation increases based on the number of successful deliveries made. The delivery staff also appreciates our user-friendly app and system.” 

User-first ideas defined all the development work

Takayuki Niwa, Director, CTO, and CHRO of Reazon Holdings, details the fundamental policies applied to developing the menu app: “In the food and beverage industry, knowledge of digital technology and management styles vary widely. When developing menu apps for the industry, we always prioritize user-friendliness. As part of this effort, our technical development staff sometimes accompany the sales staff to meet restaurant managers so we’re mindful of meals suitable for delivery.”

Niwa says menu has made similar efforts in developing an app for delivery staff and an app for customers. “The app development staff tests the beta version to examine a UI that is more recognizable regardless of the environmental conditions, and that is safer and more practical to use. For customers, displaying truly personalized recommendations is a priority, and our research team at Reazon Holdings developed a specialized search engine to achieve this. We even eliminated all advertising from restaurant rankings to ensure the credibility of the information.”

Niwa chose Google Maps Platform when developing menu’s system and apps because of four key factors: “speed, usability, availability of practical APIs, and shared knowledge globally,” he says.

Tatsuo Mitani, Executive Vice President of Development at menu and Takayuki Niwa, Director, CTO, and CHRO of Reazon Holdings

But in retrospect, reliability was another reason, he adds, since “thanks to the infrastructure of Google Cloud load balancers, and the scalability of Google Maps Platform’s Mobility services, we could operate the system confidently even in high-traffic times such as lunchtime.”

Today, menu uses a range of Google Maps Platform products and services to improve the delivery journey for consumers and drivers. The Maps Javascript API is for internally checking the area where orders are placed and the location of delivery staff. Maps SDK for Android and Maps SDK for iOS are used to locate restaurants, stores, and delivery destinations for the customer and delivery staff. The Geocoding API converts addresses into latitude and longitude information and displays the spot on a map. The Directions API retrieves route information, and the Places API autocomplete feature helps customers input the delivery address easily. 

However, Niwa had recognized the essential requirements for the new system and services: “The first requirement was to retrieve the distance between the delivery staff and the location based on the actual route. This would save time and cost of delivery while reducing delays. The second was to increase the number of Combo Orders. If we could include the locations along the route to the delivery destinations, we can provide our customers with even more convenient services. The third requirement was integrating navigation into the delivery staff’s app. And we resolved all these challenges by implementing Google Maps Platform’s Mobility services, which was a huge step to improve the practical usability of our app.”

Tatsuo Mitani, Executive Vice President of Development at menu

Mobility services capabilities used to address their business needs: “We achieved the first and the second requirements through the performance-optimized and customizable version of Distance Matrix API. Navigation SDK helped us to meet the third requirement. In the future, we want to provide the real-time progress of our delivery staff by leveraging the Journey Sharing feature.”

Reaping the rewards and looking forward to more innovation

The benefits of implementing Mobility services are already evident. At convenience stores, the number of Combo Orders has doubled since the implementation of the performance-optimized and customizable version of Distance Matrix API, which was completed within just two months.

Takayuki Niwa, Director, CTO, and CHRO of Reazon Holdings

In the long run, Mitani looks forward to more benefits: “by implementing Mobility services, we can calculate the computer server computing costs per order. This will be a big catalyst for expanding our business. Beyond expanding the possibilities for the menu app itself, Mobility services has become an essential solution for advancing the whole industry. We’re proud to have been the first among Japanese companies to implement it, and we look forward to more innovation.”

For more information on Google Maps Platform, visit our website.

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