Over 40 years ago, Ryan Lau’s father opened up Lee Garden — a mainstay in the Chinese-Canadian restaurant scene that many Edmontonians hold dear to their heart.
After opening his restaurant, the elder Lau decided he needed to experiment with various Asian dishes to find the right fit for Canadian tastes. Back then, the national palate was less familiar with Chinese cuisine. Ginger beef — now a Chinese-Albertan staple — was one dish Ryan’s dad perfected, along with Kung Pao Chicken and other staples you’ll find at Lee Garden. Today, they’re all a part of a storied history in the rise of Chinese cuisine in Canada.
Ryan, who is now a part-owner of Lee Garden, credits our white-label delivery service, SkipGo, as one of the primary reasons they doubled their orders over the last three years. We sat down with him over their signature Cantonese Chow Mein, Green Onion Cakes — and you guessed it — Crispy Ginger Beef to get his thoughts on SkipGo.
When did Lee Garden start offering delivery? And what was that like without a third-party provider?
We’ve been doing delivery, in-house, since Day One. And let me tell you, the biggest challenge doing it yourself was finding delivery drivers and employing them. It took a lot of resources — and it was like trying to play the stock market — you never knew if you were going to have a slow weekend or an incredibly busy weekday where you thought you only needed to schedule one driver.
There was a lot of manual labour involved, which meant I couldn’t focus on making my restaurant more efficient, and a lot of pressure to keep the drivers happy. I’d lose sleep if I didn’t get the balance right. If we had too many drivers on a night, then they weren’t making enough money. If I didn’t hire enough drivers on unexpectedly busy evenings, we wouldn’t be able to meet the demand of our customers. It was always a gamble.
What made you decide to partner with Skip?
Skip added a level of convenience that made so much sense for our business. We used to always take call-in orders manually before we moved over to Skip. And even once we did, we’d still get direct calls for delivery from our long-standing customers. But once they tried ordering with Skip, they moved to ordering that way permanently because of its ease of use, speed, and delivery-tracking capabilities.
How did you first learn about SkipGo?
I first heard about SkipGo through my Account Manager. The reason I switched was simple. Skip had the most reliable drivers. I used their competitor for a year and, after comparing the two services, it was clear Skip was more reliable in fulfilling orders on time.
Plus, we were already partnered with SkipTheDishes, so having the integration with SkipGo was a no-brainer. What I really appreciate about SkipGo is its billing — it’s incredibly transparent and lays out everything for you in a way that’s easy to read. You know exactly what you’re paying for, and there’s no back-and-forth in terms of billing or invoices. For a company like ours, which does so many delivery orders and fulfillment, it can quickly get confusing if you don’t have a system that’s very clear-cut in terms of fees.
Do you use SkipGo with other platforms?
Yes, we use Deliverect for online order management and the middleware integrates with Skip. The platform as a whole makes it easy for us to use SkipGo — we’re really happy with how seamlessly Deliverect and SkipGo “speak” to each other.
When people order online via Deliverect, SkipGo handles the delivery. The information is passed on to our front staff smoothly, it’s tracked online, and SkipGo has other convenient features that the competitors don’t have.
Plus, our customers love it. I’ve personally had customers tell me that it’s great for them because they can track drivers and quickly see where their delivery is and its ETA.
How has the integration benefitted you?
It’s funny to say now, but when we first started, we were taking orders by paper. We’d get an order in from Skip and then we’d write it down in our notebook, punch it in, take the chit and post it up in the kitchen. But now, thanks to how Skip is integrated with Deliverect, the process is completely streamlined with our POS. We’re able to save on labour and there are fewer overhead costs.
What’s your relationship with your Skip Account Manager like?
Over the last few years, I’ve had a few different managers — each had a different yet smart take on our business, the product, and what was happening in the market for us to capitalize on. I have to credit them for their contributions in helping build my business through Skip and the ways they’ve brought their thinking to help Lee Garden and Skip become more efficient in fulfilling orders.
They brought their knowledge to the table, helping make our business leaner and more efficient — not just for myself, but customers as well.