"We were solid, stable and confident in our friendship and the strength of our idea."- Dineout
Sep 23, 2016
Tell us the different stages of the dineout journey so far?
As is true for any business, the last 4 years have actually been a steep learning curve.Let’s begin with the stage when we were scared. This was our Learning Stage. The first year was full of tumbling blocks and hurdles. We had quit our really secure, safe and well paying jobs to begin something that was not even considered important in India. We got enough naysayers on our journey, but what worked fantastically was the support from our families,and the strength of our friendship. We were never fighting for control, but supporting each other through times when we lost control over external situations. We were scared that we would fail. We were petrified that maybe it wouldn’t work. Questions like; ‘Could we have done something else?’ came many times. However, somewhere, the passion to do what we had started was so strong that it didn’t matter what insecurity hit us. We were solid, stable and confident in our friendship and the strength of our idea.This stage was all about personal care and attention to every minute detail. We took the calls. We tied up with restaurants. Sometimes we waited hours at the lobby to get a cheque for Rs. 2000 from a partner. We didn’t have anyholidays, as people would be out on a day off, trying to get a table, and usworking very hard to get them one. We managed every department withone guiding principle – how to optimize money and save on time. This was probably the reason why we were able to build a company that was lean,profitable and sustainable in the long run. Even till date, we get calls from our first set of Diners who ask us “Are you still with Dineout? Can we get a table?” – We never came across to them as owners, rather as executives on the job.
The next stage – let’s call it – The Balancing Stage - came towards the end of the first year. We needed to stabilize a growing business, while enabling rapid growth of all our processes with amazing speed and strength. We needed guidance and mentoring, and in the process of trying to find someone who could inspire, direct and regulate us, we met Miten Sampat,Head of Corp Dev at Times Internet Limited. This is when we were made to realize the possible impact of our business on the F&B industry if done right. We were taken over by Times Internet Limited and then handed the business reins with a mandate to make it profitable and sustainable, while they supported us with a nurturing ecosystem. Times Internet Limited enabled us to expand fast, wide and with amazing clarity. In the last 2 years, we have grown at almost 200%. Our team has grown by 450% and our restaurant base today is across 8 cities with over 2500 reservation- enabled outlets.We were in a challenging stage last year. Someone we know called it the Litmus Stage - when one is tested and tried. The market suddenly opened up to many players in the table reservation space, with some small and other large entities trying to claim the maximum market space and top-of-mind dominance. However, this didn’t catch us off-guard. We had our game face on, and before anyone could do a massive damage to our brand space, we had our land-grab plan in place. We also acquired inResto this year.This was a strong strategic move to deliver a full-stack open platform one-stop-solution to restaurants enabling them to better manage their lives.Today, we seat over a million diners every month through this platform and have the largest chains in India using our service.
We are entering The Juggernaut Stage – We are stronger than ever before. Consumers are aware, the market is open, technology is aiding growth and our team is stellar with some of the best people in the Industry working with us. We now have solutions like
DINEOUT SMARTPAY – An integrated payment solution for diners to seamlessly pay and get benefits at the restaurant
Dineout Plus – India’s Largest Premium Dining Programme which is on an Annual Subscription Model and entitles the member to Flat 25% discount on the total bill at over 300 Top Five Star Restaurants
We have just introduced DEALS, EVENT BUYING and even the ability to UPLOAD A BILL to get cashback on our platform
There are many more amazing developments, which will make the dining experience of the user easy, value driven and seamless.
What are the different challenges you have faced so far and how have you over come them?
The core challenges have always been around financial stability, growth, people and technology. From the first day we started working together, there was only one ambition – to deliver the best experience possible to the Diner. There was also the responsibility of delivering profit to the Restaurant partners. So whatever challenges hit us, we resolved them keeping these two key deliverables in mind. The biggest challenge we still see is changing the behavior of people. Reserving tickets for a movie, which is a slightly non-involved experience seems to be the norm, but there is still some time for people to take on the habit of reserving a table. We believe it is slowly and steadily getting better,however, it will take time and focused effort. The smarter diners are embracing our service, whether it be over the app, website or the concierge service. The other challenge is in continuously investing in enabling the restaurants to be more agile, consumer focused and experiential. We have an amazing product called inResto, which is being taken up by chains who are progressive and tech-friendly, however it is extremely beneficial for almost every stand-alone restaurant too. We are putting an inordinate amount of time, effort and resource into reaching out to the vast network of restaurants and consulting them as growth partners. We are drawing data that will enable a business owner to take a more informed decision. This would progress a business through a customer centric process substantiated by data and insights.
We have always tried to hire the best minds possible. One of the advantages of being a 4-year young startup is that we have learnt how to hire right. Although there are challenges in finding talent and retaining the right people, there is always the magic in finding someone amazing who takes the business to newer heights. This has been a strong success driver for us.
What is the traction and growth in the past 4 years?
We have got the largest network of reservation-enabled restaurants as part of our service offering. This with the strength of our growing team and number of cities, Dineout today stands as India’s largest table reservation service. We have grown from four people to almost 50 times that in a span of 4 years. Having added a luxury-dining product like Dineout Plus has further strengthened our revenue stream, and ensured operational efficiency. In the last 4 years, we have gone from being a startup to a category leader.
What are the different stages and changes Dineout has seen?
The biggest change we have witnessed is the way the consumer embraces our service. We have a fantastic repeat rate of usage. The diner finds our service beneficial in terms of saving time and money. This strong value driver, with a remarkable discover platform and highly responsive concierge desk has enabled the diner to accept us with open arms. The biggest evolution in the last 4 years is in the way people are dining out. Restaurants are becoming smarter, and diners are becoming a lot more focused on getting the right experience. They are more discerning and demanding. We are a strong bridge for great restaurants, which want to connect with smart diners.The other change we have seen is in the way the industry has grown. Investments into Restaurant Tech is going up, NRAI is focusing a lot on the growth of the sector, amazing opportunities are being created for the ecosystem as a whole. Service providers are coming together to ensure seamless experiences and adoption of early stage investment backed initiatives.