Singapore F&B booking site raises another $13M, looks to dine deeper

Chope has secured another S$18 million (US$13 million) in funds, which it says will go towards growing its salesforce as well as product development to resolve broader issues in the dining experience.

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Singapore's restaurant booking site, Chope, has secured S$18 million (US$13 million) in another round of funding that it says will go towards product development and growing its salesforce.

The latest round comprised new investors Square Peg Capital, C31 Ventures, and Moelis Australia, as well as existing shareholders NSI Ventures, Susquehanna International Group, DSG Consumer Partners, and SPH Ventures.

Chope's CEO and co-founder Arrif Ziaudeen told ZDNet he remained a "significant" shareholder, but there now were larger shareholders in the Singapore-based entity. With the latest funds injection, to date, the six-year-old company had raised in total US$26 million, he said.

"With these [new fund], we are positioned to invest significantly in...user experience and customer service, while deepening our reach into our markets across Asia," Ziaudeen said. "The company plans to use the growth funding to build better products, enlist a larger salesforce, and enhance customer support."

Chope currently has more than 3,000 F&B (food and beverage) customers in Singapore, Hong Kong, mainland China, Indonesia, and Thailand, all of which tap its software suite to manage bookings, customer relationship, service promotions, and pre-payments.

Some 60 percent of restaurants listed on its site are in cities outside of Singapore, and there are has more than 1 million Chope users. According to Chope, 80 percent of its users were "regulars".

The company today operates seven offices, including Shanghai, Bangkok, and Jakarta, and employs some 120 across the region. It also has partnerships with TripAdvisor, Michelin Guide, and Visa, amongst others, which integrate their services with the Chope site.

According to Ziaudeen, the company still generated the bulk of its revenue from monthly subscription fees for its table management system, booking fees from confirmed reservations, and marketing services.

Last year, it also began offering a pre-payments service in which diners could purchase vouchers at a discount and used these at restaurants they booked through Chope. This service was now its fastest-growing revenue driver, the CEO said, adding that this indicated further potential for payment services in dining apps.

Asked what new product development would the additional funds facilitate, he pointed to the need to go beyond restaurant booking. "It's time for us to now expand our business scope beyond purely reservations, to the full dining experience, by investing in creating new products and technology. Of course we'll also be doubling down on our core business because there's still so much growth in that market, too," he said.

While he declined to reveal what new features were on the horizon, Ziaudeen said the focus was on "building more ways for users to discover, book, and interact" on the site. He added that Chope also would be looking to make better use of the data it had to personalise user experience.

"There're [still] dozens of problems to solve [in the F&B scene]," he noted. "Why is so much discovery still word-of-mouth? Why do restaurants still have so many 'no-shows'? Why do prices stay the same on a busy session as when it's empty? Why do restaurants still not recognise someone who's eaten there 10 times? Why do they have 10 separate machines for delivery and POS (point-of-sales) systems? Why don't diners have real-time info about restaurants the same way they do about their taxi?"

"We're not going to be able to solve all these problems overnight, but we now certainly have the resources to build better solutions than currently exist, and networks to distribute them," he said.

Asked about a social dining feature the site previously was testing, which analysed dining data to show users where their friends were eating, Ziaudeen said this remained one of Chope's product development initiatives. "This idea has so much potential, but we just haven't had engineering resources since 2015 to push it--a problem we'll now hopefully be able to solve," he said.

Chope in November 2014 acquired Singapore startup Ticktok, integrating the latter's queueing service with its reservation system.

Ziaudeen said the company continued to review acquisitions "opportunistically", but this would not be a core part of its strategy.

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