Following the announcement this morning that Singapore-based restaurant reservation service Chope raised US$8 million in an investment round, we threw a few questions CEO and Founder Arrif Ziaudeen’s way to get his perspective on what’s happening in the space.
What is the funding being used for?
Chope got to where it is today by dogged persistence on product, and we can now invest even more heavily in R&D. For example, we’re experimenting with social dining via our ‘What’s Happening’ beta feature that combs massive amounts of dining data to show you where your friends are eating.
Second, we’re working on digital vouchers as dining gifts, or even for yourself to save 10 per cent as you’re sitting in the restaurant (arbitrage!). These are just examples of MVP experiments we are doing to push our product and business model further. Needless to say, it’ll also go to more aggressive execution on the core reservation/queue business.
We’re one of the few players that have figured out the “formula” for building a restaurant reservation network, and it’s no secret that it requires military-grade execution.
What are the unique challenges of running this business in Southeast Asia?
Actually, I’d say 80 per cent of dining is similar globally. Restaurants are fundamentally the same business model in New York or Shanghai, and dining behaviour inevitably follows. An old-school Chinese restaurant owner probably has the same mindset and fears of technology as a third generation Sicilian pizza chef. Sure our challenges are local, but they are not unique.
Everyone’s closely following the progress of the Apple Watch. Can you tell me a bit more about the possibilities you see there (now and going forward)?
Ah, this is interesting. The biggest challenge is anticipating how people are going to use technology in four to eight years’ time; everyone’s building phone apps, crazy as it sounds that’s already old news. So when Apple contacted us to develop a food app for the Watch, we were intrigued.
Our app, which launched on Apple Watch last week, enables booking from your wrist. It’s a nod to the laziest Chopers, who were glad we removed the pain of calling. Well, now we’ve removed the pain of opening your pocket. But by next year that will look like a stone-age version, just like the very earliest iPhone apps.
I think the next value is in the Watch’s “corner of your eye” status — it’s always lurking within your field of vision. It’s a matter of time before marketers capitalise on that.
Who are your key competitors locally?
There are small single-city players in most countries, but as far as we know, Chope is uniquely the only pan-Asian reservation/queue focussed player in the market.
What has been integral to your success and securing trust from investors for this latest round?
One word: team. It’s only due to their persistence that I can proudly announce our funding today. And if you ask me, the investors are part of that team. We go through the ups and downs, and arguing and celebrations, just like any team. I guess that’s what builds trust, seeing how you (and they) behave at the worst moments either destroys or builds respect for each other. Oh, and extensive due diligence helps too.
Image Credit: Sochiock