Just Eat Buys Spanish Online Food Ordering/Delivery Rival SinDelantal For A Few Million Euros

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Just Eat, the multinational online food ordering and delivery company that raised $64 million in April from Vitruvian Partners, Index Ventures, Greylock, and Redpoint, is today announcing its first acquisition out of that cash injection: it is buying SinDelantal, its rival in Spain, to help give a quick boost to that country’s operations and help Just Eat continue its international growth to do battle with the likes of Delivery Hero. TechCrunch understands that the price is in the range of a few million dollars, about 95 percent of that in cash.

After cutting out the overlap of restaurants and take-out food businesses that used services from both, the deal will add several hundred more restaurants to Just Eat’s Spanish operation, says Just Eat’s CEO Klaus Nyengaard. The aim is to grow the total number of businesses covered by Just Eat in Spain to 3,000 by 2013.

SinDelantal’s co-founders, Evaristo Babé and Diego Ballesteros, will stay with the company to oversee the transition.

SinDelantal — Spanish for “without an apron” — was actually an earlier mover in the online food ordering/delivery market in Spain, setting up shop about six months before Just Eat in 2010, but the Danish company grew faster and more aggressively, relegating SinDelantal to the role of “strong number-two,” says Nyengaard. SinDelantal had raised nearly $2 million from investors, including VitaminaK, the Spanish early-stage VC firm, and Michael Kleindl.

Although Just Eat may make more acquisitions, and there may well be more consolidation in the food ordering and delivery space, Nyengaard says that for the most part it’s hoping to grow its market share organically rather than through more purchases. “We are open to discussions if they make sense,” he says. “But there are just not that many companies that are interesting for us.” He says SinDelantal was different because it was a strong rival in a more challenged country. “Spain’s not the biggest market for food delivery, and we’ve been seeing really good growth.” Part of the reason for it being a challenging market, as Nyengaard points out in a blog post, is because of the state of the economy in the country, which has been one of the hardest hit by the European economic crisis. Other examples of strong regional competitors are iFood in Brazil or Hungry House in the UK, although in the latter case its operation is significantly smaller than that of Just Eat.

As we’ve mentioned before, the game of online food delivery is similar to other e-commerce sites that are based around physical goods: it is a question of product choices that meet consumer demand (here, that’s as wide a variety of food options as possible), sold on margins that don’t get outweighed by the logistics and customer service needed to deliver them.

Just Eat’s approach to that has been to inject the process with technology. Nyengaard says that of the company’s 25,000 total restaurants across 13 countries, some 20,000 are equipped with special devices that help the businesses manage their workflow around food preparation and distribution, which is then used to correspond to Just Eat’s fleet of delivery people. That’s important for a company that needs to deal with peaks and troughs where the peaks can sometimes see as many as 15,000 food orders come into one city country in the space of an hour, with all of that food needing to be delivered within 45 minutes of being ordered.

Just Eat doesn’t handle billing for orders but this could easily be incorporated into the process — and may well be in the future. “If we wanted to we could enable the devices to be used for in-store payments,” he says.

Other areas where we may see Just Eat developing services soon is in the area of taking payments on delivery, using mobile devices to complete the transaction. Nyengaard would not comment directly on this but didn’t deny such plans, either. “I don’t want to go into details of what is on our roadmap, but it is an interesting idea yes, and of course we have thought about it,” he says.

One area it’s not likely to explore, though, is taking that logistics infrastructure into other areas outside of restaurant delivery. “People have aproached us about the flower and grocery business, but we always say no,” he says. “We need a razor sharp focus on what we do now. There is so much more growth coming.”