Bolt Food plans to take on rivals with marketplace transition

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 11 Aug 2023
Bolt Food prepares to morph into a marketplace.
Bolt Food prepares to morph into a marketplace.

Bolt Food South Africa is preparing to introduce Bolt Market on its platform, as the food delivery service looks to transform into an online marketplace.

Bolt Market, an online food market, will offer a selection of products, including fresh produce, pantry staples, household essentials and alcohol.

Launched in SA during the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, the food delivery arm of ride-hailing firm Bolt says it has experienced significant growth since inception, despite SA’s macro-economic challenges.

Tafadzwa Samushonga, country manager for Bolt Food South Africa, tells ITWeb that the food delivery service is on-boarding businesses outside of the restaurant vertical, as the app prepares to morph into a marketplace.

Bolt Food is present in the Western Cape and Gauteng, having grown to list over 2 100 food businesses on the platform.

“As a business, we launched Bolt Market in a number of European markets to expand into the groceries category. We have begun to on-board convenience and alcohol stores to complement our restaurant selection.

“Our growth strategy is to consolidate our position in these markets, leveraging the footprint of our ride-hailing vertical and strong, mutually-beneficial partnerships with restaurants and couriers,” explains Samushonga.

It is following in the footsteps of competitors Uber Eats and Mr D Food, which have transformed into online marketplaces.

Bolt Food is eyeing further growth in SA, and is reinforcing its “back to basics strategy”, which it believes will contribute to its growth and sustainability in the local market, she says.

While Samushonga is not able to share customer numbers, she notes that dark kitchens, also known as virtual kitchens, are increasingly gaining popularity among local Bolt Food customers. Virtual kitchens listed on the platform include Just Wingz, Bento, Ribshack and Real Sushi.

“These are restaurants that do not have a ‘front of house’ or dining room and deal exclusively with food preparation and delivery. This model significantly reduces business costs, as it does not require investment in interior decoration, employment of waiters, accompanying inventory and the like.”

The company’s focus for the future is to strengthen its position in cities where the Bolt Food service is already available, and apply best practices from other markets, with plans to expand nationally in SA further over time.

“We want to continue finding ways to provide our users and restaurants with the best offer and we are working with our delivery partners to achieve a median delivery time that is less than 35 minutes,” she concludes.