Restaurant reservation start-up Eat is on a mission to help restaurants increase their revenue by providing table and reservation management systems that drive incremental bookings.
Founded by Nezar Kadhem, his aim is to become a global company.
“The business keeps exciting us. We have signed three major deals this year with TripAdvisor, Time Out and Google, We are live in 109 cities around the world. We want to be what Airbnb has done to booking” he said.
Visitors to the TripAdvisor or Time Out websites and Google Maps are now able to make instantly confirmed bookings at hundreds of partner restaurants through the integration of Eat’s real-time table booking technology.
Originally from Bahrain, Kadhem moved to San Francisco for University in 2006.
“That time, a lot of internet was happening and lots of start-ups were blooming. I have seen students dropping out of colleges and starting a start-up or working as a part-time for a start-up. I realised that anybody can do anything on the internet and it has really proved it in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco,” he told Gulf News.
When he graduated, Kadhem really wanted to pursue entrepreneurship and learn how to start a business.
“There was a course offered by a university called Babson in Boston and it was called Global Entrepreneurship Programme. For one year, we have to live in France, China and then in the US and learn different parts of the business,” he said.
In France, he learnt about idea generation, legal components of starting a team and co-founding a company. In China, he learnt more about how to do a product and in the US, it was about selling and marketing a product.
“The course was really useful for me to understand and get motivated. At that time, France was offering a Visa for people who want to become an entrepreneur. The only requirement is that you have to be in France to start a company.
“So I applied and it got accepted. So I and my school friend moved to Paris. We started a company in the event management space, building a software for event organisers to manage their customers like a CRM for event organisers, a table management software for customers who came to the event and were seated on specific tables. It really gave us an opportunity to understand the B2B side of the business and processes of starting a company,” he said.
In 2013, he visited Bahrain after a gap of eight years and realised that there was no one doing restaurants here.
“I tried to make a reservation at a restaurant in Bahrain as some of my friends are flying down from Paris. I searched the internet for the restaurant’s phone number and no one answered the phone when I called them in the morning.
“I called them again and a hostess answered and said: “Can you please stay on hold”. So I waited, and about two minutes later, she finally started taking down my details. As I was repeating my number and name, the line got disconnected. I called them again; finally, the reservation was made after undergoing the whole process.
“I thought to myself, there must be a better way. Reservations over the phone is time-consuming and frustrating. If I can reserve a hotel room online, why can’t I do the same for restaurants?” he said.
That is how the idea came to start Eat, he said and added that the culture of eating out was there but not the technology.
By November 2013, Kadhem moved back to Bahrain and during that time he met a business angel company called ‘Tenmou’.
“They told me that if I can prove my business is worth, then they are ready to invest $100,000. In February 2014, we got the $100,000 cheque and set up a company in Bahrain,” he said.
Eat has two products, one for restaurants, and another for consumers.
The app focuses on restaurants that give customers an experience, mostly high-end restaurants.
The restaurant software has a monthly flat fee plus a commission for every online reservation.
“The Bahrain angle company said that if we can prove that restaurants are going to pay for this software, they can introduce us to other investors. Our first major deal was with Four Seasons.
“Then the angle investor introduced us to others and we got our second funding of $300,000.
In just six months, more than 70 per cent of the Bahraini restaurants were online and using our app. Our next focus market was Dubai,” he said.
Tenmou said the same thing that if Eat can prove that there is a market in Dubai, they are ready to invest further, he said.
When Eat approached many hotels in Dubai, Kadhem said that they [hotels] are ready to use our app and software.
“So, the angel investor again funded $300,000 to help us open our Dubai office. By December 2015, we registered our company in Dubai Multi Commodities Centre. We’ve come a long way since then. We have over 400 restaurants as partners in Dubai and roughly 15,000 customers booking every month,” he said.
Eat has so far raised more than $3.5 million.
According to KPMG there will be 120 per cent more restaurants in 2020 than in 2015. In 2017, Dubai is expected to receive 9.2 million tourists with the UAE F&B market as a whole generating $12.5 billion.
“We are the riding the wave as the hospitality sector continues to grow. Our next target is Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman by next year,” he said.
The app is available in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Northern Emirates.
Source: Gulf News