By Holly Black
Newly listed BigDish has spotted a gap in the market, combining Brits’ love of bagging a bargain with their enjoyment of eating.
UK adults eat out twice a week on average, according to recent research, and are likely to fork out a hefty £288,000 on restaurant bills during their lifetime. With an average spend of £44 a week, it makes sense to nab a discount before you make a booking if you can. That’s where BigDish comes in.
The company served up shares to investors for the first time on 2 August, raising £2.2 million, and the market already seems to have an appetite for the stock. Shares have climbed around 13 per cent from their float price of 4.5p to 5.09p.
The idea behind the firm is simple: restaurants can offer discounts at their off-peak times to smooth their footfall, while diners can enjoy money off depending on the day and time they choose to book.
There are advantages for full paying customers too, who enjoy the buzz of a full restaurant and don’t have to fight for their table because everyone is trying to book for the same time. Meanwhile, staff benefit because they should not find themselves overworked in peak hours or bored in an empty restaurant on quiet days.
It’s not an entirely new concept, admits chief executive Joost Boer. Tastecard, for example, quickly gained popularity when it was launched in 2006. The membership scheme offers diners set discounts at participating restaurants in exchange for an annual fee.
But with this system, bookings are not driven to off-peak hours and Boer realised that a blanket discount for all days and times didn’t seem to work. After all, why should a restaurant offer a discount at a time when its tables are in demand?
Boer says: ‘I thought back to my own experience working in restaurants when, on a Friday night I would work very hard but on a Tuesday I might get sent home because it was so quiet. This is a very clear problem that restaurants have and we have a very obvious solution.’
Disruptive technologies often have a simple concept such as this at their core – think Netflix, Uber and Amazon. They need to be easy to understand and use, and solve an obvious problem in the market.
Launched in the Philippines, BigDish has evolved as it expanded to Indonesia and Hong Kong, and now starts its roll-out in the UK after its acquisition of Tablepouncer in August.
The business will focus on regional cities in the UK, where the eating out market is fast-growing but competition is less intense. Tablepouncer is already popular in Bournemouth where some 126,000 diners used the app in 2017. Next on the list of cities in which to roll out is Bath– such trendy, foodie destinations are prime candidates for BigDish.
For users, BigDish is as simple to use as any other booking app or website – you sign up through an app store or Facebook and make a booking at the restaurant of your choice, in the same way, you might make a hotel booking on booking.com, and you’ll most likely get a better rate than if you booked direct.
With BigDish, the restaurants themselves decide when discounts should be utilised. Boer says that’s because there are no set rules around when an outlet’s quiet periods might be – one restaurant may be busier on a Thursday and another may get most people through the door on a Sunday.
He adds: ‘Food tech tends to be around food delivery or normal reservations. No one else is addressing off-peak hours. It’s an obvious problem that no-one else is solving.’
Technology plays an important role here, of course. Dynamic pricing can help determine which prices should be charged at which times, and it will only become more intelligent as it gathers more data.
Such disruptive technology has less-obvious benefits too, such as those of social inclusion. Boer says: ‘We hear about people being about to take their mum out on Mother’s Day to a restaurant that might otherwise have been out of their reach because of this app, and that’s what this is all about.’
The service is already proving sticky – some 70 per cent of users make a booking within a month of signing up, and they then continue to use the service. Feedback from restaurants and customers alike is positive – the app is rated 4.7 out of 5 on the app store – and growth has been in double digits.
Targeting foodie cities with populations keen to utilise technology has meant a successful start to BigDish. For the firm, this year will be about taking its first steps into Europe but Boer is confident of its potential to reach 10 or 20 countries.
He says: ‘There is demand from both sides – restaurants and diners – and this has worked everywhere so far. We want to get our technology to the next level and just keep getting better.’
Holly Black: is an adept interviewer, news and features writer, having written for various trade and consumer titles, with plenty of broadcast experience too. she was named Investment Journalist of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Rising Star of the Year at the Santander Media Awards and Headline Money Awards.
Andrew Scott welcomed Aiden Bishop and BiG Dish to the London markets
The author does not hold shares but was remunerated for this article