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Startup 2015-06-01

We closely monitor user engagement to stay on top- Vivek Kapoor, Dineout

Restaurant India in conversation with Vivek Kapoor, Co-Founder, Dineout, who talks to us about the benefits of a restaurant reservation platform.

By Deputy Features Editor
We closely monitor user engagement to stay on top- Vivek Kapoor, Dineout

How is Dineout different from other eCommerce players in the restaurant industry?

We are in the space of managing the diners’ expectations in terms of discovery, dining out and savings. Below are some of the ways in which we differentiate ourselves from the others in the food tech space.

• Online Table Reservations at top restaurants in the city • Great offers for the customers absolutely free of cost • Authentic reviews by real customers • Comprehensive tiered customer loyalty programme. • We plan and organise parties for our customer saving them time and money • Fully functional customer service division with late night support • A complete tech-based solution for the restaurants for table management and manage their database

You have also entered into the mobile app market; do you think eCommerce will give way to mobile commerce? How do you see the consumer’s behaviour changing in the near future?

Today, people prefer different devices depending on the online activity or task, the desktop v/s mobile skews by content category can vary widely. Categories such as Photos, Maps and even in the case of dining out too, are more often than not used on the go, lending themselves to heavy mobile usage, while the Portals and Business/Finance categories comparatively index much higher on desktop devices. Although Portals function as an accessible hub of information on desktop, the mobile environment is markedly different where apps have taken on the role as the gateway to the web.

We just released a very cool version of our app with fantastic integrations with Paytm and Uber, empowering the user with lucrative cash back options. And that’s how we are going to be moving forward.

In my journey with Dineout so far, I have seen the user behaviour change significantly. In 2012, when we went live, 75-80 per cent of our users were engaging with us on the phone/web and today we have around 60 per cent-70 per cent using our mobile platforms. So this does seem like the trend especially in our industry.

Talk to us about the opportunities and challenges being in your kind of business.

Our target demographic is urban population in Tier I cities where dining out has become fairly common. The growth in ‘eating out’ has been contributed to several factors including; the increasing middle class population, rise in the working class population, emergence of more nuclear families coupled with the rise in disposable incomes and double income households. The age group of 20-45 views dining out more as a lifestyle activity with the average urban consumer in that age group dining out 8-10 times a month. This has led to an explosion in the organised sector of the restaurant industry in India, which is growing at CAGR of 40 per cent and is worth 15,000 crore, clearly proving that there is a huge market waiting to be tapped.

First Challenge- To change the current behaviour amongst diners - from waiting outside a restaurant, to reserving a table in advance by educating them about the benefits of a restaurant reservation platform like ours.  The consumer is still not aware of the benefits of reserving in advance and specially by using on-the-go technology. Once this becomes a part of the habit, almost the entire eco-system will fall in place. We are seeing a trend shift for the good.

Second Challenge- Getting the restaurants to adopt technology is one major challenge. But that’s also changing fast. The new age restaurateurs are in sync with the latest technology and are at least open to the idea as compared to what was the mindset in 2012.

Although large, this business is extremely sensitive, how do you make sure that the quality of the products is intact and is in no way compromised?

When the core motive of the entire organisation is to help the diner come what may, this becomes fairly easy. We have opened all the channels of approach (App, web, mobile site, in house call centre and whatsapp) for the diner. And each and every aspect of the user engagement is closely monitored. We are very quick to make changes or adopt functionalities as per the user behaviour and user expectations. Our entire core leadership team is involved in the day-to-day, each of us owns a core piece of the user experience and stay on top of our game. This helps us keep the service quality at par with the user expectations and often exceeding them.

Tell us more about your business model.

Dineout is a table reservation service that enables customers to book a table using our mobile apps, the website and through phone concierge; at their favourite restaurants in town and provides them exclusive discounts, FREE of cost! We also enable Dineout users to plan and organise parties, corporate lunches and dinners, anniversaries etc for FREE without the hassle of having to call many outlets themselves. Our platform does all of that for them, thus saving their time and effort. We specialise in organising gatherings even in the tightest of budgets. Our restaurant partners love us for building this service just as much. By using technology, they are able to be very efficient with group bookings on Dineout, and are happy to pass on savings to Dineout users; it is a great win-win.

Our partners pay us a fixed fee per seated diner. So it’s based on customers not the table. This is a winning combination for a restaurant as nowadays any outreach to acquire customers is prohibitively expensive. Our channel is the most cost effective for a restaurateur today, as it is entirely performance based.

What would be the average orders that the website gets in a day?

In the past 12-months, we’ve doubled our monthly seated diners, and over the past quarter we are seeing strong growth of nearly 25 per cent month-on-month. Dineout has also expanded its footprint from 2 to 7 cities in that time frame. We have over 2,000 partner restaurants in 7 cities, where booking is possible.

Is there a particular segment that has a huge demand?

Today, the diner is spoilt for choices, when it comes to non QSR Dining. The user seeks a unique dining experience every time he goes out. And his search horizon is huge. And this is exactly where we help him out, doubling it with savings. To quote any specifics in terms of user demands, would be incorrect, since every user is repeatedly coming to us with a unique expectation each time. For example, the queries can vary from locality, to cuisine, to the dining occasion etc.

Talk to us about your business rivals and if you think the category is getting somewhat crowded today.

This is an emerging market, and it is expected for many to enter this space. However, as the ones who started this industry in India, Dineout is the only one with a national presence, strength of fabulous relationships with restaurants and a unique reward and loyalty programme which ensure that people stick to us because of our service quality. The category will take a while to get occupied, let alone crowded. 

What do you have to say about the changing trends in online food marketplaces?

The reason consumers prefer online over traditional (phone or in-person) means of searching restaurants is because it offers instant gratification. It’s all about being able to have the convenience to go online, look at a menu, look at the pics etc on the go. Plus, the social shareability and ability to chronicle experiences is what makes the online food industry so dynamic. So, I just see this trend rising at a tremendous velocity proportional to the rate of increase of smart phone users. 

Are there any new initiatives being launched at dineout.in?

As I mentioned, we have just revamped our app on android and iOS. Apart from that, the following; but not limited to them-

• Paytm integration- This is part of the Dineout loyalty programme, where users get the advantage of having a table reserved, discounts and additional savings in the form of cashback and loyalty points credited as points to their DINEOUT WALLET, which is transferrable to their Paytm wallets.

• Carlsberg Zone- Along with Carlsberg Club Glasses and Timescity, we have categorised some of our partner restaurants as per their service delight rating into a special Carlsberg Best Rated Restaurant Zone. This enables people to choose the right place to eat from a curated list. There is also an introductory promotion where Carlsberg Club Glasses serves our diners who book through the Carlsberg zone, complimentary refreshments. Going back to our basic goal of serving the user with exactly what he desires and expects.

• Host App- We have built a very innovative app for our partner restaurants, where he can manage his entire guest list and the establishments promotional communications through a single platform. The restaurant also has the means of tapping customer data and manage the entire CRM.

• Uber Integration- Now the user can book an Uber through our app whenever he books a table through us. This is our endeavour towards spreading more consciousness of ‘dine, drink but don’t drive’ philosophy. With the uber integration, the diner doesn’t have to go from one app to another – it is all done seamlessly, and the payment through paytm (which is a partner) completes the loop.  

• Luxury Dining- We have got most of the 5-star properties onboard with us with fantastic discounts for the diner only looking out for a luxury dining experience. The properties which are part of this programme are our giving us exclusive discounts.

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