HungryGoWhere cooking up plans to be more than booking site

Singtel-subsidiary introduces point-of-sales and cloud-based reporting system as part of its goal to offer restaurants more than a reservation service, which currently accounts for the bulk of its revenue.

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HungryGoWhere CEO Frank Young

HungryGoWhere has big ambitions of being more than a dining reservation site, with the aim to cater to restaurants' most critical needs, and is introducing its own point-of-sales system to a push towards this direction.

Acquired by Singapore telco Singtel in 2012, HungryGoWhere started out in 2006 as a food review portal and later expanded its services to encompass other aspects of the dining experience. These currently included restaurant reservation and food delivery, the latter of which was provided via its partnership with food delivery network, FoodPanda.

On average, 1 million users a month accessed the HungryGoWhere portal to research dining options, make restaurant bookings, and order food deliveries, according to its CEO Frank Young. The site's current listing featured 25,000 dining options including hawker stores and food courts. This also encompassed 3,000 full-service restaurants, 850 of which signed up to be on HungryGoWhere's reservation service.

Young told ZDNet restaurants paid either a flat monthly subscription fee or a lower monthly subscription in addition to charges based on the number of successful dining reservation.

He declined to say how many bookings HungryGoWhere processed a month, but revealed that fees from dining reservations accounted for the bulk of the company's revenue. It also generated revenue from advertising, delivery transactions, and sponsorships.

The company now was looking to open up new revenue streams by moving into "tremendous untapped opportunities" in the F&B market, he said, adding that diners' needs went beyond simply reservation.

He noted that the majority still were walk-in diners, with online booking accounting for only 20 percent of a restaurant's customers even in matured markets such as San Francisco. This figure was about 19 percent in Europe, he said, stressing the need to look at other aspects of the whole dining experience.

Young explained that F&B merchants today were mostly concerned about getting more customers into their establishment and running their business more efficiently, especially since many faced shortage of manpower. Operational costs also were increasing, driving down the average earnings for restaurants to negative 7 percent, he said, citing market figures.

In expanding its services portfolio, HungryGoWhere aimed to help restaurants address these challenges, he said.

Rings up POS system with cloud data analytics

This week, it launched what it touted as a "smart POS" system, which ran on the vendor's proprietary software. Priced from S$5,950 (US$4,261), a basic two-year service bundle comprised the POS system, which would include an Apple iPad tablet, receipt printer, cash drawer, and subscriptions encompassing maintenance, training, as well as access to basic analytics and reports, amongst others.

Merchants would have to pay additional fees if they required other add-on components such as a router or mobile ordering device, called "e-waiter", to allow diners to input their own orders or restaurant staff to key in orders. The POS software was built on Apple's iOS platform, while the e-waiter software ran on Google's Android.

Because the system was linked to the HungryGoWhere reservation portal, the restaurant's staff would receive an alert once a booking had been made and then could choose to pre-assign a table to the customer. Dining orders, including food delivery orders, also would be sent automatically to the kitchen and could be configured to send separate instructions to different stations, for example, if the restaurant had different counters for food and beverages.

The POS system also would send an SMS to food delivery customers to confirm that their order had been accepted and when it was ready for collection or was delivered. For dine-in customers, the e-waiter device enabled them to customise individual orders, Young said, noting that this improved the efficiency of getting orders into the kitchen as well as reduced the potential for errors.

Touting the system's ability to support multiple channels, he said this reduced the complexity as well as counter space required to process the different transactions.

Data collected across the entire transaction chain, including the customer's order history and spending per visit, would be used to generate reports that could be accessed via HungryGoWhere's cloud-based reporting system.

Merchants would be able to view data on hourly, daily, and monthly sales as well as the average transaction per diner. They also would be able to see correlation between items diners ordered and the restaurant's peak and off-peak dining hours.

Such insights would enable merchants to decide if their menus should be tweaked to meet diners' preference or if certain food items needed to be replenished more frequently to meet demand, Young said, adding that changes to menu could be rolled out quickly to multiple outlets via one POS system.

At the end of the two-year service package, merchants would have to pay a monthly subscription fee to continue accessing the reports and data, as well as HungryGoWhere services. Depending on the services they signed up for, which could include reservations and takeaway, a basic subscription package was available from S$199 (US$143) a month.

According to Young, HungryGoWhere was looking to expand its footprint in the region and exploring potential new markets, including Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia, in which to launch local services. He added that his team was reviewing potential investment partners before deciding where it would set up presence.

It currently had a headcount of about 60 across offices in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

He further revealed that the vendor planned to introduce new product offerings that would "plug holes" in the dining experience, but declined to elaborate on what these were due to competitive reasons.

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