Ankit Mehrotra, Sahil Jain, Nikhil Bakshi and Vivek Kapoor ran Dineout, the table reservation platform, not like founders from cushy corners of a swanky office. Taking calls, waiting for hours in lobbies to get a cheque of Rs 2000, no holidays and questions like – are you still with Dineout? This is what startup life was all about for the trio.
“We managed every department with one guiding principle – how to optimise money and save on time. This is probably the reason why we were able to build a company that was lean, profitable and sustainable in the long run,” adds 31-year-old Ankit.
Dineout is now celebrating its fourth year of business. And in these four years, it has seen some rapid growth. In the first six months of its establishment, Dineout was clocking 8,000 to 10,000 table reservations a month in Delhi alone. It was acquired by Times Internet Limited in the first year at the deal value of $10 million.
The team claims they have grown at almost 200 percent in the last two years. Ankit says their restaurant base today is across eight cities with over 2,500 reservation-enabled outlets. The team also acquired inResto, the plug-and-play restaurant management platform in September last year.
Ankit says the company's ambition from day one was to deliver the best experience possible to the diner. The biggest challenge they saw when they started and see even now is in changing the behaviour of people.
“We believe it is slowly and steadily getting better, however, it will take time and focussed effort. The smarter diners are embracing our service, whether it be over the app, website or the concierge service,” adds Ankit.
The other challenge is in continuously investing in enabling the restaurants to be more agile, consumer-focussed and experiential.
Ankit adds they are putting an a lot 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,” adds Ankit.
The team believes they have a great repeat customer rate, which shows that the diner finds their service beneficial in terms of saving time and money. Somya Khandelwal, one of the regulars at Dineout adds that for the past three years she has been using the platform for all her bookings and finds the process to be completely hassle–free and seamless.
“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 four years is in the way people are dining out. Restaurants are becoming smarter, and diners are becoming a lot more focussed on getting the right experience. They are more discerning and demanding. We are a strong bridge for great restaurants that want to connect with smart diners,” adds Ankit.
Miten Sampat, Head of Corp Development, Times Internet Limited, says that Dineout solves an important problem in the user lifecycle journey – discovery to destination for a customer looking to eat out. He adds that while considering the acquisition, the team was definitely one of the biggest factors, apart from the business. Over the last 18 months, the business has grown exponentially, with a presence in eight cities and seating more than one lakh users a month across 2,500 restaurants.
Miten adds, “The acquisition of inResto has also added to the offering and now we are able to provide a complete tech stack to the restaurants, which has fuelled the recent growth. The launch of Dineout Plus was also a milestone for our Premium Dining Section. We are working on some cool new features for the restaurants and it promises to be an exciting journey ahead.”
The restaurant and table booking space has seen booming activity in the past year. Zomato became another player in the segment with the acquisition of the US-based NexTable, a restaurant reservations and table-management platform. The new service is called Zomato Book. Vir Sanghvi-curated, EazyDiner, a review and table reservation platform, raised $3 million Series A recently co-led by existing investor DSG Consumer Partners and new investor Saama Capital.
However, according to a report by Forbes, the percentage of restaurant bookings online is low in almost all markets except the US, where it is at 20 per cent. The numbers are however slowly growing, also with even TripAdvisor venturing into the space with it acquiring Dutch-based IENS. The market seems to be taking an upward trajectory.
Also, reports suggest that the online restaurant booking space shows a similar trajectory as the travel booking space. Additionally, there is a growing focus of restaurants adopting online booking to manage fillouts at the tables.