I’m excited to finally be able to share the story of Ritual. It started while I was building my last company, PushLife: I had an experience at a pub in the UK that changed my perspective on local commerce. In 2010, Robin Axon and I visited a pub in Notting Hill Gate and we listened, fascinated, while the bartender told us about the benefits of being a regular. Some had their own mugs with their names inscribed and others even had their own barstool they could claim at the bar! Playfully, we asked if we could be regulars even though we’d only be back quarterly — we told him our names and chose our beer — the only rule was that we weren’t allowed to change it.
A few days later, we returned to the pub — same bartender was working. He looked up as we sat at the bar, poured our drinks, walked over and said, “Welcome back Ray and Robin — here are your pints!” A few thoughts went through my head about this person with such an exceptional memory — the first was that he would someday leave and my relationship with this pub would end. The second was that if a digital platform could connect customers with individual businesses through data, that data could be leveraged by all local businesses to provide a personalized experience for their customers and develop relationships that went beyond any one employee. That was an exciting future to me. I realized that in an increasingly digital world, the future of local commerce is social — it was about elevating transactions to relationships, not just with local businesses but also between people. The reality is local commerce is not a singleplayer game, it is a multiplayer one.
PushLife, the company that I founded, was acquired by Google in 2011 and I led mobile commerce product efforts for 3 years at Google HQ along with my co-founders Rob Kim and Larry Stinson. Digitizing local commerce was a massive opportunity but remained elusive. We saw many challenges — consumer products weren’t gaining traction because getting strong penetration in local businesses was challenging. The few that were gaining traction — like food delivery — were premium services that were too expensive for the general mass market. Large businesses were investing heavily in digital solutions and it felt like small businesses were being left behind.
Ritual was born in 2014 to solve these challenges and our north star has always been about elevating local commerce from transactions to relationships. With the Ritual app, users can mobile order and pay ahead from all their favourite local eateries and coffee shops and have it ready to pick up when they arrive. Order ahead isn’t new but for us it was the necessary rails to build our social platform on. The magic of Ritual is that friends and colleagues can add, or “piggyback”, their own food orders onto the person who is already picking up. As a result, the person going can bring back an extra order or two when they pick up their own, and bring it all back to the office. This elegant peer-to-peer network, what we call “Social Ordering” is now being used by thousands of teams and companies across the U.S. which means that people can finally have a coffee or an $8 sandwich brought back to their desk with no extra fees! The benefit to our restaurant and coffee partners is immense and they have been able to drive significant incremental sales by tapping into this network.
I’m happy to announce that today we are officially launching nationally in the U.S.! We’re focusing on San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. first. We’ve served 5 million meals to date through our launch in Toronto and beta testing in the U.S., and as Ritual gains adoption and mainstream use, we hope that not only will we help great local businesses thrive but also that customers will be able to capture those moments of time they save to connect with themselves and their community — perhaps even over a pint at a nearby pub!