An interview with Shriti Chhajed, Founder, Urbanrestro.com.
In a candid chat with Franchise India, Shriti talks about her company Urbanrestro.com and how it works for the online reservations of restaurant and banquet.
Urbanrestro is a one stop portal in the upscale F&B segment. We are majorly into banquet planning and restaurant reservations business. We also plan events at these restaurants such as culinary or bartending workshops creating unique experiences.
We have a very simple operating model-for Banquets: you enquire, we shortlist; you select, we negotiate and you enjoy.
For restaurants –the customer searches the restaurant, makes the reservation, gets sms and email confirmations, dines at the restaurant and gets great discounts.
We have about 175 restaurants, 100 banquets tied up with us across Mumbai, Pune and Ahemdabad. We only partner with up-scale restaurants. One of the criteria for selecting them is their budget per person. For example in Mumbai we look at those restaurants where the average budget is Rs 1000 and above. However, the budget criterion varies as per city.
We have around 8-10 banquet inquiry and about 60-70 diners for restaurants daily.
How it all began
I always wanted to do something in the restaurant industry. During my college days I wanted to open an ‘Ice gola stall’ of my own. Then the idea changed and I wanted to open a restaurant of my own. Then somehow, working on three- four ideas, I thought of making a mark on the online industry and as it was also the hospitality industry. I then worked on this idea.
Being brought up in a business family, I always wanted to start something of my own. My dad has always been an inspiration for me. He started from scratch and ventured into various businesses before making a name for himself.
I always wanted to start something in the hospitality segment. Before doing my MBA, I left my job and worked on a business plan for six months opening an upscale theme-based restaurant. Then I realised the need for acquiring some more skill sets-financing, branding- before starting the venture. This made me join SP Jain for a 1yr MBA course. After completing the course, I had to wait for another year to get the right idea and the right team.
Initially it was not easy to get restaurants with nothing to show them. I remember, we had to do almost 10 meetings to get the first restaurant on-board. All of them believed in the idea. Initially we thought of charging the restaurants which no one accepted since it’s a start-up and we had no proven track record. Then we started offering them a complementary service for the initial period and increased our tie ups. This worked and we started getting signups.
The first and the foremost thing which was required to start this business was the zeal and the belief to do something more than a regular job and the readiness to leave the job and the high paychecks at the end of every month. Then it was to get the right partners who share your ideas and beliefs. Once these things were sorted out all things fell into place.
Initially we started speaking to restaurant managers and owners for taking their feedback on the concept. And after getting a positive feedback we started developing the concept and building the website.
On the investors
Harsh Baid has provided the seed-funding for the business. Apart from being an investor, he also imparts his experiences and knowledge to the team and gives useful perspective from the clients’ point of view on different aspects of the business.
Integration with technology
Technology is an integral part of our business. The whole genesis behind this venture was to offer convenience to people. We are also developing a web app /analytical tool for banquets/restaurants which will enable them to do real-time update on their inventories.
We will be soon coming out with a mobile app which will enable the user to do reservations on the go.
As of now, I consider Justdial as our competitor in the banquet business. But we are working on a different model where in we not only provide leads to the banquet but also convert them and that ensures a sure-shot business for them. Also when a customer calls us for a banquet query, instead of just suggesting them options, we try to get them the best rates possible.
Journey so far
The journey is an exciting experience though stressful at times. From conceptualisation to launching the website, hiring resources, finding right partners, registering the company, it's been a great learning experience and I have enjoyed every moment of it. It is good to be called as an entrepreneur.