Suppertime: A History of Food Delivery in Australia

Suppertime food delivery logo

Today in Australia we take food delivery services for granted. Over the last ten years the industry has grown to now reach most Australians, but you might be surprised to hear that restaurant delivery aggregators have been around for nearly 40 years. Long before we had Uber Eats, and even Google, to find local restaurants, there was Suppertime.

It’s Suppertime

According to their archived website Suppertime started way back in 1985. Their premise was simple: deliver great food from independent restaurants in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs to it’s local residents. The original founders were local residents Barney — likely Mark Russell, namesake of the creator of The Flintstones — and Frosty (another Mark), who thought it would be “great to eat your favourite restaurant’s food at home”.

Up until the mid-2000s the whole operation was managed through a spreadsheet. But it was around this time that Menulog was formed, and started a whole generation of food delivery apps.

Menulog vs Suppertime

After the launch of Menulog, two Sydney entrepreneurs — David Berger and Nathan Besser — made a move to acquire Suppertime in 2007. Their first step was to develop an online ordering system, and it was clear from the very first iteration that their inspiration was Menulog.

The archived version of Suppertime’s 2007 ‘about’ page shows a contact email belonging to Menulog. At first it appears that maybe the brands were somehow interconnected, but after deeper research it seems like the filler content for the first website was taken from a Menulog page around the same time.

At the time Menulog was primarily a restaurant directory which allowed users to book restaurant tables. Their testing of restaurant delivery was only available for a few hundred restaurants.

But the testing was enough to spark a new industry, and inspired Suppertime to grow from a spreadsheet to a full online ordering system. Fortunately the business already had an established restaurant network to start from. Sydneysiders might know the name Doughboy Pizza, which was one of the first brands to be listed on the new restaurant delivery website.

Meal Delivery Goes Mainstream

In the early 2010’s the market for food delivery services started to heat up. First EatNow was founded — again by some Australians — while Delivery Hero, Deliveroo and Foodora all formed within a few years around Europe. In the background Uber was building their brand primarily as a taxi service.

Suppertime had been relatively quiet to this point but as the rising tide lifted all boats their patience was about to pay off. In October 2015 the Suppertime brand was acquired by Delivery Hero. This extra weight helped them land Gelato Messina as a restaurant partner. And for some reason the idea of ice cream delivered to your home seemed to capture the minds of the media and brough mass attention to food delivery.

Not all the attention was good. The Suppertime brand starting getting some negative attention in 2016 due to aggressive marketing including a door hanger campaign. Not long after this Suppertime switched to using the Foodora brand, which had been acquired by Delivery Hero in September 2015.

But in April 2016 Uber Eats launched, first in Melbourne, and their huge presence quickly changed the food delivery landscape.

Suppertime is Over

Within less than a year of Uber Eats launching Delivery Hero withdrew their main brand from Australia and left Foodora (rebranded Suppertime) as their sole operation in Australia.

By 2018 Foodora had only a tiny fraction of the market in Australia: Uber Eats had around 400% more and even Deliveroo had captured 200% more. At the end of 2018 they withdrew from the market altogether. This left room in 2019 for Doordash to enter the market. As of today Deliveroo have also withdrawn (as of 2022) and the market share is more equally split between Uber Eats, Menulog and Door Dash.