Leicestershire entrepreneur develops the ‘gateway to trade’ for independent businesses amid lockdown

Leicestershire entrepreneur develops the ‘gateway to trade’ for independent businesses amid lockdown

An entrepreneur from a small Leicestershire village has found a way to help independent restaurants, pubs, shops and businesses around the country open up safely amid the current pandemic.

Eugene Blaine, from Shearsby, has developed the Rhino Online Social Distancing App which allows small businesses to offer an online take away ordering facility.

Potential customers can view online food menus or product listings, place their orders and then pay remotely. Uniquely, the app provides for collection slots so customers can collect their purchases without having to come into contact with other customers.

Eugene helped his local pub, The Chandlers Arms, set up its takeaway business when all hospitality services were forced to close because of COVID-19.

Eugene said:

“Our local pub is such an important part of our community in Shearsby and like all the villagers, I wanted to find a way to support landlords Stella and Martin Woolley to trade and for our village to continue to enjoy their amazing food, while also adhering to the strict social distancing measures that have been put in place.

“The app manages the flow of people to the pub which means there are never any queues of people waiting to order or pay for their meals.  I feel really passionate about shopping local and supporting local businesses and I am delighted that our app can help those businesses to adapt and survive these strange times.”

The app has proved to be very effective and is now used by pubs and restaurants in Ireland, Bristol, Gloucester, and London that have sought to adopt this innovative approach.

Stella, who has run the pub since 2016 said:

“We’re hugely grateful to Eugene for developing this fantastic app.  It’s allowed us to continue trading, safely, which for us was absolutely vital.

“The Rhino Online Social Distancing App is so easy to use, which is a huge bonus for us and our customers as none of us are hugely into technology. Not only that, but it can be set up in 24 hours or less, which means a business can be back up and running within days. For any independent company wanting to get back to business, I strongly recommend using this app as I really think this provides us with the gateway to trade for the foreseeable future.”

Now the app model has been proven to successfully work within the takeaway industry, Eugene and his team are now focussing on how the technology can be applied to other services.

He said:

“In the current climate just nipping out to the bank, post office or garden centre is an arduous and long-winded task. Waiting in a queue for up to an hour is not uncommon. Our app is going to radically change all that. The introduction of a ‘FAST PASS’ booking system similar to that used at Disney World – means shoppers can use the app to book a specific time to enter a shop, thereby avoiding unnecessary queues and helping to reduce the amount of people outside of premises.

“I am pleased by the success of the app and we are in discussions with partners that will take it into the United States market. But I want Leicestershire to be at the centre of it all, so we get independent businesses open and thriving again in our area.”

All business owners who sign up automatically get access to the free edition of the app, which allows them to take the first 100 orders free of charge. But for those businesses which have already signed up, many of them upgraded immediately after seeing the benefits of the app. It costs a flat fee of £30 plus VAT per month and there is no commission to pay as is common with other more well-known takeaway apps – making them unaffordable for smaller independent t businesses.

A website is not necessarily needed either, as a link to the app can be added to social media pages very easily. A directory is currently being built so shoppers can browse through all the businesses which can be reached via the app.

Laura Bent, local Shearsby resident said:

“I’m excited about what this app could do for our local area. Shopping local and supporting independent businesses is really important to me. This app will place them all in one place at my finger-tips.”

Interested businesses can contact Eugene Blaine and his team for a free demonstration enquiries@rhinoapps.com.  The app can be downloaded via the Play Store for Android users and the Apple App Store for iOS.

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