Ever faced a problem of not getting reservations at your favourite restaurant? Found yourself, along with family and friends, on multiple occasions waiting outside the restaurant hoping to get a table and, at times, praying or trying hard to bribe the attendant. We all have been there, hoping, praying and cursing to get one table to start the evening celebrations. But a similar incident led Varun Gupta to think beyond the ‘Hope and luck’ factor of getting restaurant reservations to bridge this service gap, innovate and launch a convenience app called ‘Clicktable’ that helps diners to secure reservations and also avail amazing offers, deals and discounts from the restaurant.
Clicktable also offers a B2B product ‘Empower’ which help restaurants to streamline their front desk operations by optimizing management of reservations, wait-lists, guest data, and table allocation. A computer engineer from Purdue University, USA and an MBA from Columbia University, New York, Varun launched Clicktable in 2015 in Delhi and has rapidly spread his services across Mumbai and Bengaluru with strong plans to foray into other leading metros in India.
Team NewsBarons spoke with Varun Gupta, Founder of Clicktable about his unique service offering, his expansion plans and his learning’s from his family business – Kent RO Systems Ltd., the largest water purifier brand in India.
NB: What prompted you to launch Clicktable?
Varun: I was trying to get a reservation at an award-winning restaurant in Delhi for quite some time but all my attempts were unsuccessful. I wondered why isn’t there an online system which shows table availability to prospective diners to ease the process of making reservations at restaurants. Having spent considerable time in the US and experiencing such portals over there, I thought that this should be good idea for the Indian market and should have an immense potential, given the facts that Indian diners are spending more time on their smartphones than before and the restaurant industry is growing at a healthy rate.
Although I studied computer engineering, I had lost touch of hands-on programming as I was involved in a non-IT related role in my family business – KENT RO Systems Ltd. for last 10 years. Therefore, I created a small technology team to carry out POCs before we hired the full team for product development. Simultaneously, I also reached out to many restaurants in order to understand their acceptance for a table and reservation management software. The outcomes from the survey helped us to fine-tune our offerings in the software.
Thereafter, we spent almost six months to develop the restaurant facing software that allows restaurants to manage tables, reservations, customer data and events & offers. We named it “Empower” because by using the software, a restaurant is empowered to offer better customer experience to its diners.
We spent roughly a year in selling the Empower app to restaurants in Delhi NCR and simultaneously developed our consumer facing website and mobile apps. Once a threshold number of restaurants were using the Empower app in Delhi NCR, we launched our consumer facing website and apps. We also started operations in Bengaluru and Mumbai subsequently.
NB: Please explain the working of Clicktable?
Varun: Clicktable is a mobile app cum website that allows diners to make hassle free real-time table reservations at their favourite restaurants. It also brings to diners the best offers, amazing deals and exciting events at the best restaurants in town.
Apart from the consumer facing mobile apps and website, there is a restaurant facing side also called the Empower App. The Empower application is targeted towards casual and fine dining restaurants and it streamlines management of various front desk tasks like reservations, waitlists, guest data and table management, and promotion of events & offers.
Both products work on both desktop and mobile across different operating systems.
NB: What are the other benefits associated with the app?
Varun: Clicktable is well designed service platform for diners as well as restaurants. The app offers:
– Real time confirmation of reservations for diners
– We only allow actual diners to post reviews on our platform
– CRM solution for restaurants to manage reservations, waitlists and guest data
– Out of the box functionality for promotion of events & offers by restaurants to diners
NB: What is your user base and geographical strength? What are your expansion plans?
Varun: Our consumer website has been up and running since last three months. As of now, we get roughly 100,000 visitors on our website every month.
We recently launched our mobile apps and are hopeful that we will see more traffic across platforms.
We started out of Delhi NCR. Today, we have roughly 1000+ restaurants on our platform. We have been successful in tapping standalone restaurants and now our focus has shifted on chains and 4/5 star hotels.
We also started operations in Bangalore and Mumbai few months back. It still early days in those markets but we have almost 800 + restaurants in above two cities on our platform.
We are also planning to start operations in Pune and Hyderabad soon.
NB: How many F&B outlets have you partnered with?
Varun: We have tie up with 2000+ restaurants, bars, & hotels
NB: What are the advantages for F&B outlet to register with Clicktable?
Varun: We provide a seamless experience for table reservations to diners. Because our consumer website and apps are integrated with the piece of another software that runs at the restaurant, we always have the real-time table availability and hence, the reservations are confirmed in real-time. We have completely bypassed the call-center model in our operations.
Also another thing that makes us very different from all the competition is that we allow only actual diners to review restaurants on our platform. This prevents bloggers and spammers from creating artificial ratings of restaurants like on similar platforms.
NB: How do you compete with other similar service apps?
Varun: Before plunging in this venture, we analysed that both Dineout and EazyDiner were offering table reservation service but they were using a call-centre based solution for confirming such reservations. Also, both did not offer any software solution to restaurants to manage reservations at the restaurant end. Hence, it was a completely one sided offering with virtually no focus on solving restaurant related issues.
NB: What is your revenue model?
Varun: The Clicktable business model does not charge consumers anything to make reservations through our platform but we charge restaurants to use our software and other services.
NB: You are a part of India’s leading corporate house. What has been the learning’s from your family business that went into launching Clicktable?
Varun: When you’re working with your family, the stakes are higher. So you work longer and harder, which breeds success. So, with this mantra, learnt a lot from my family business and that definitely helped me in my own venture.
NB: Mission 2020
Varun: In our target set of restaurants, here are roughly 7000 restaurants across 10 big cities of India. Almost 3 million people dine at these restaurants every month. Our target is to capture 5% of this market in near term.