It’s one thing to disrupt a ripe-old industry, another to disrupt a contemporary one. Sydney-based startup GroupDiner is self-assured in its mission to overhaul its competitors in the online restaurant reservation market.
Currently a functional MVP, the startup has been co-founded by entrepreneur Alex Tassone and graphic designer Abraham Atiya. Both are cognisant of the fact that they’re breaking into an industry with a number of power players – including Dimmi, which has been backed by Telstra, Village Roadshow and Qantas, and is partnered with web giants like Google, TripAdvisor, Yahoo and UrbanSpoon.
But there are a number of problems with dimmi.com.au, bookarestaurant.com, and other players in this space. Coming from a family of restaurant owners, Tassone says existing platforms don’t cater to the needs of restaurants – especially smaller venues. This is evident in their revenue model, which charges per head per booking.
“We want to increase restaurant margins, not penalise them for getting bookings. At the same time, we want to have a profitable business model. Over the next few months, we’re going to be talking to a lot of restaurant owners to find out how we can shape our product to suit their needs,” says Tassone.
Built in the spirit of WordPress, GroupDiner will offer restaurants an easy-to-manage backend system accessible on all devices (desktop, smartphone, and tablet). Restaurants will essentially be able to ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ bookings with a click of a button. Booking alerts will come through via in-app notifications, emails or SMS. Tassone says it’s up to the restaurants to automate and systemise the process, that they’re merely facilitating the technology.
When it comes to the front-end, sites like Dimmi, BookARestaurant, and US-based OpenTable have interfaces that are quite clunky and unappealing. Tassone says GroupDiner offers a more modern and engaging user experience. As per screenshots below, there’s a stark difference between GroupDiner and older online restaurant reservation sites.
“Our biggest point of difference is our product’s user experience (UX) design. GroupDiner is more visually appealing, and has better search capabilities. We also plan on making GroupDiner a social platform. Users will have profiles, they’ll be able discuss the restaurant industry in greater depth, they’ll be able to follow each other, write lengthy reviews, and more,” says Tassone.
Given the platform was only launched in beta a month ago, most functionalities are still being developed. Tassone says they are currently in the process of analysis and will be making decisions based on what customers want from a user interface perspective, and what restaurants want from a business perspective.
“We will determine our differentiation based on the pain points of these two markets,” Tassone adds.
“Instead of having everything perfect and ready to go, we decided to launch an MVP. This way we can discuss everything with customers and restaurants, and then make further refinements.”
Once they develop the product further, acquire a substantial user-base and implement a scalable business model, they will be open to the prospect of raising capital, in addition to forming strategic partnerships with prominent personalities in Australia’s hospitality and tech industries.
“Our main objective right now is to streamline the booking process for the user and the restaurant,” says Tassone.
Given he is also the founder of design agency, Hooch Creative, they were able to build GroupDiner in-house in one month. Tassone says they’ve spent about $5,000 all up, and don’t expect the cost to increase too dramatically over the next few months.
There are currently about 150 Sydney-based restaurant listings on the site, and users have already started making reservations.
You can take a tour of the site via www.groupdiner.com.au.