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Fueled by a growing appetite for convenience and a youthful, tech-savvy population, Addis Ababa’s food delivery scene is experiencing growth.

This market has attracted a wave of startups, from the pioneer Deliver Addis to Zmall, beU, Tikus, Yetem, Metahu Delivery, and more.

To cultivate user bases and establish a robust delivery culture, these platforms rely on incentives. Discounts have become a key strategy, capitalizing on the desire for a good deal to drive order volume.

Akofada (DFS Ethiopia)

While popular with consumers, the inner workings of these discounts remain unknown to the public.

Several key questions remain unanswered: How do discounts influence menu choices? Who shoulders the burden of these discounts—restaurants, platforms, or both? What motivates platforms to offer them?

Shega talked to delivery platforms and restaurants to fully understand the marketing scheme.

Zmall Delivery: Strategic Timing

Zmall, a multifaceted delivery platform catering to customers’ demands with a variety of restaurant options, groceries, and even dairy products, emerged in 2019.

A product of ETTA Technologies, Zmall currently features over 400 restaurants, 50 supermarkets, and +100k users. The platform also allows people living abroad to spoil their loved ones back home.

Zmall has an average delivery time of 35 minutes. For distances up to three kilometers, the company charges 70 Br, with an additional 7 birr per kilometer thereafter.

According to Yoseph Hailu, Zmall’s Marketing Manager, food discounts on the platform are a collaborative effort between Zmall and the restaurants themselves. The contribution from each party isn’t always equal. For new restaurants, Zmall shoulders a larger portion of the discount cost to encourage customer interest, given their lower initial sales. “Established restaurants, however, are expected to contribute more towards the discount,” Yoseph explained to Shega.

Zmall spearheads promotional campaigns, developing the overall strategy and pitching it to relevant restaurants on their platform. This strategy includes cost breakdowns and a shared marketing plan. Campaigns can involve giveaways, special offers, and “buy-one-get-one-free” deals facilitated by partnerships with beverage companies.

User data plays a crucial role in planning, with Zmall analyzing trends in customer preferences to design targeted discounts, according to Yoseph.

Zmall also offers general discounts on food items, independent of restaurant promotions. One might wonder, what does Zmall gain from this? Yoseph explains that Zmall’s success relies on the success of its partner restaurants. Initially, Zmall prioritizes user acquisition for new restaurants by promoting them on the platform and encouraging walk-in customers to order online. Once the restaurant reaches a specific user base milestone, Zmall may then request their contribution to future discounts.

Yoseph emphasizes that this collaborative approach to discounts benefits both parties. Restaurants gain increased visibility and customer acquisition. While there are no major drawbacks to the platform itself, Zmall strategically times its requests for restaurant contributions to ensure a win-win situation.

BeU Delivery- User Acquisition 

Founded by Hao Zheng, BeU arrived in Addis Ababa in 2021. Known for its distinctive, orange-uniformed bikers, BeU quickly made its name due to its cheaper delivery rates.

It stands as one of the most successful food delivery platforms in Addis Ababa, having over 200,000 users and partnering with more than 600 restaurants.

According to Fikreab Habte, BeU’s Marketing Manager, BeU offers various types of discounts that are popular with its users, including item discounts, menu-wide discounts, discounts on delivery fees, and promo codes.

Item-specific discounts are determined by several factors. “There are customer favorite items,” Fikreab explains. Popular menu items might be discounted to boost sales, while discounts on new items might be offered to encourage customers to try them.

On the other hand, restaurant discounts across the whole menu, which can range from 10% to 50% off the price, are covered by the restaurants themselves.

“We may recommend discounts, especially for newly opened restaurants, to stimulate customer interest, and at the same time, restaurants can also take their own initiative and offer discounts,” said Fikreab.

BeU also employs discounts on delivery and promotional codes for platform-wide promotions, which could include free delivery, holiday packages, happy hour specials, and more. Depending on the size of the campaign such offers could cost BeU between 100,000 birr to 150,000 birr. 

“For example, we had a platform-wide promotional code for International Women’s Day. We offered a ‘Women’s Day Promo Code,’ which provided a 10% discount on all orders placed on our platform when redeemed,” Fikreab told Shega.

According to Fikreab, BeU’s business development agents play a crucial role in managing discounts. User data, trending stores, new entrants, top restaurants, and favorite items are analyzed to suggest discount strategies and ultimately decide which items to promote on the platform. For restaurants, using discounts helps them gain visibility on the BeU platform.

Honey Amdew, Manager at Bite Addis, a restaurant on the BeU platform, explains their approach to discounts. “It might seem like a coincidence, but we launched Bite Addis around the same time BeU started operations. As newcomers, we wanted to quickly establish a customer base, so we started offering discounts.”

“Even now, after three years, we continue to offer regular discounts,” Honey adds. “We find that high-volume sales benefit our business. Honestly, the platform itself is a great promotional tool. Every time we have a discount, our banner gets highlighted on BeU, helping us attract new customers.

“While BeU usually initiates discount proposals,” Honey explains, “we typically choose to implement them.”

Yetem Delivery: Loyalty Programs

“We don’t market what we don’t deliver,” declares Dawit Germew, CEO, and co-founder of Yetem Delivery. Launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, Yetem is an on-demand food delivery platform serving all districts of Addis Ababa.

Yetem’s journey began as a gift delivery service operating through a website and phone line. Over time, it expanded to offer food delivery through a user-friendly app available on both the App Store and Play Store.

According to Dawit, Yetem was born out of personal necessity and observation. “Existing delivery platforms at the time primarily focused on central areas, neglecting the city’s vast periphery. Yetem’s core mission is to provide accessible delivery across all Addis Ababa districts, with delivery times ranging from 20 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes,” Dawit emphasized. Currently, Yetem has over 240 restaurants and more than 35,000 registered users.

Yetem offers a unique loyalty program: users who place more than 10 orders enjoy free delivery. Additionally, the platform features daily “happy hour” discounts on both food and delivery fees.

Yetem collaborates with restaurants to offer discounts on food items or entire menus. Additionally, they partner with beverage companies like Coca-Cola to provide discounts reaching up to 50% when customers order food with a Coca-Cola product.

Another notable offering at Yetem is seasonal discounts. “While we currently offer Ramadan discounts, our seasonal promotions extend beyond this holiday,” Dawit told Shega.

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Etenat holds a degree in Journalism and her master's in Public Relations. Previously, she served as a university lecturer and has five years of experience in communications, media, digital marketing, and consulting.