Upon reading a favorable review of a restaurant, Naresh Prajapati decided to take his international client out for dinner to it. However, he found the restaurant’s food to be merely average. He liked the ambience and service, but felt that they too could be improved with technology.
In his opinion, if mobile apps can be used to deliver food to households, why can’t they be used in restaurants to make the experience more efficient and enjoyable for the consumer? Instead of having to wait for someone to take down their order, and then hand over a bill at the end, patrons could simply use their smartphones to speed up the process. To realize this vision, Naresh started Spoonzo.
What is it?
Spoonzo is an in-restaurant food ordering app. The app has an interactive menu with a search bar to make discovery easy. It incorporates social elements by allowing users to view items and dishes that their friends have liked, shared and reviewed. Users can also share their own reviews and opinions to help their friends. ‘Info’ shows information of restaurants or cafés such as timings, cuisines, address, and contact details etc.
The app also includes another interesting feature - ‘mood filters’ - where users can select different emotions such as sad, stressed, romantic or angry based on their mental state. The app then suggests suitable food to suit the mood. Spoonzo’s research team worked on the relation between food ingredients and different moods and their formula is the basis for this feature.
Why is it needed?
An insightful thing I observed is that emotional eating has been a part of India and hence included this among one of the core features of the app,
Naresh added. Being a foodie, Naresh struggled with unmet needs and problems at restaurants. He found restaurant menus to be static and have limited information. In most cases, he found that restaurants do not keep track of customers’ visits and ordering patterns to award them for loyalty. He added:
“Ordering is still done manually, and sometimes a wrong order or delay can spoil the entire dining experience. Placing orders and paying through mobile phones eliminates such errors and speeds up the process.”
-Spoonzo shows users nearby restaurants based on their location. Users can also search for particular restaurants through the search box.
-In addition to other social elements, ‘Trending items’ shows users’ a list of the most popular items at restaurants.
-The app includes filters for type of food, price range, mood and also displays any ongoing offers at restaurants.
-The app rewards regular users with loyalty and redemption points which can be utilized at different restaurants. Users can pay through the app and also write any special instructions for the order in the instruction box below the total amount.
- Call services allow users to request waiters for napkins, cutlery and water by selecting the respective icon in the application for a more disturbance-free dining experience.
Spoonzo estimates that the current market size of dine-in restaurants is around Rs 4500 cr. They are currently working on a freemium model and offer most of their services free of cost. They charge on analytics based on specific needs by restaurants. At certain places, they have offered their app as a bundled solution with their other product eMenu. Combined they have earned approximately Rs 2 cr in revenues so far.
Another startup in this sector is Momoe which aims to improve the last mile experience of customers by allowing them to pay their bills at restaurants through their app.
Team behind it
Naresh is the Co-founder and CEO of Azilen Technologies. He started his career with Aricent, a product engineering services as a Sr. Engineer, and has also worked in USA. Then he came back to India and founded Azilen Technologies with Niket Kapadia. Niket is now the Technical Director at Azilen. He started his career at Aricent in 2004, as did Naresh. Niket has more than 10 years of experience and mentors technical teams towards their business goals. Azilen has now expanded to a 200 people company with five offices in Ahmedabad. Apart from Spoonzo they also have another product, the aforementioned eMenu.
Abhay Phansikar is the business development director at Azilen and is an industry veteran with more than 35 years of IT experience in various positions, including, Director, COO and Technology Architect. Mamta Sanghvi drives product department and has a Masters Degree in business management and marketing. She started her career with Info Edge India Ltd and worked at Naukri.com for three years before joining Azilen Technologies.
Challenges and overcoming them
In their initial days, the team faced a few challenges ranging from operational level issues - some restaurants prevented them from putting QR codes on their tables - to damages to their in-store promotional material. They also faced some resistance from the restaurant staff, who didn’t want to lose out on their tips because of the app.
“Further, we were the first movers. This comes with its own cons, the most challenging of which were and remain changing the mindset of patrons towards in-restaurant ordering, and getting our methods accepted by restaurants. Currently, our growth rate is quite good and our major focus is user acquisition,” added Nimesh.
Since their goal is a user-centric approach, they have utilized various digital and on field marketing strategies in promoting restaurants to build awareness and acquire users. Along these lines, they ran an IPL contest for a month, doing in-restaurant and online promotions, inviting patrons to play games, and awarding winners with tickets to watch IPL matches live at Rajhans Cinema hall, Ahmedabad.
Spoonzo was launched in Ahmedabad in mid-2013 and in Mumbai in 2014. They have covered more than 200 cafes in each city, so far. Recently they launched their product in Pune, and by the end of this year, aim to launch it in Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Their long-term goal is to move to international markets such as USA and Russia. They claim that their website gets around 10,000 visits per month and that they have reached about 25000 people through their mobile apps.